Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Sister in law - follow up to big trouble w the law

As a follow up to my post 28 days ago - and thanks to those who replied. My SIL got into trouble a yr ago during one of her SZ moments and sped thru 5 towns and ended up with a ton of tickets, a seized car and a week in the Psych hospital. They obviously saw she wasn’t well. She was scared to death and thought someone was chasing her. Well she never showed up to court and had a warrant out on her and finally they came and got her and put her in jail. Her dad bailed her out ($5K down the drain to a bail bondsman). Now she faces a new court date and were told from
Her lawyer (who really won’t talk to us cuz of client/lawyer confidentiality) that she faces 7 yrs! Meanwhile she still thinks she’s been “set up” and the FBI have it taken care of. The family is freaking out because she’s going to jail and won’t last a day ! She’s addicted to cigarettes and Diet Coke and lives in chronic pain from a car accident yrs ago - she is not good with people and especially in hospitals (she expects people to give her what she demands - that won’t fly in jail we are afraid she’ll be in solitary confinement). We don’t love this lawyer and think she needs a new one but she will not go along- in fact she told the judge she fired this lawyer which didn’t make him happy- he’s about to drop her! She won’t cooperate and I think has no understanding that she will go away for 7 yrs possibly. We’re at a loss. My husband doesn’t want to go to court to watch her taken away - his dad is 92 and can’t do much. His brother will take her. It’s a mess. She is 63 - the condo assoc is evicting her - she owns it but they will force her to sell because she scares the neighbors - what on earth will happen. She belongs in a hospital not a jail? Anyone had an experience like this? Where do you find a mental health lawyer ? We can’t get one before the court date which is soon . (Not to mention she won’t cooperate) we will have to do it on appeal “that she’s mentally Ill”. Apparently she missed her shot at that argument when she didn’t show up to the court dates last year ! Any advice? Thank you so much. It’s helpful to talk here!

My advice is contact NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). They do some legal advocacy for the mentally ill.

Try starting with the hotline and see where it takes you:
[800-950-NAMI] (800-950-6264)

Their website is

They have local chapters throughout the US.

Good Luck.

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Thank you!!! I appreciate the links and phone number!

I am so sorry that your sister in law is facing 7 years and doesn’t realize it. That is the problem with unmedicated mental illness: odd behavior that no one can understand, especially if she has no idea that she is ill. If she is fighting with her own lawyer, it may not go well for her in court. If it is too late for anything but trial and sentencing there is nothing anyone can do, as she DID do the crimes. If she shows up for court, the bail should be mostly returned to her dad.

From experience in my family (my husband was in prison for DUI some years ago), jail might not be as bad as you imagine it to be for her. Unfortunately, jails and prisons have a fairly big population of the mentally ill. You can make her prison stay better if somehow you can put money on her account so that she can make phone calls out, get stamps and paper to write letters, and buy things from the jail “store”. She will be able to barter with others and make some friends who will look out for her among the other inmates. Sending in packages with clothing allowed in the prison (you might have to buy it through an online dept of corrections store) will help also: sweatshirts, undies, socks, etc, as clothing is not always sufficiently warm or numerous enough.

Unfortunately, just as when one is drunk and doesn’t know what one is doing, when someone is mentally ill and doesn’t know what they are doing, the crimes they commit must be paid for by doing time. Hopefully it will go well for her despite the awful circumstances.


Thanks for responding. She has a new court date in Feb 3. We helped her with a new lawyer - she fired the first one! Hoping she gets some
Of the $20K she gave him
Back. It’s not my problem but I do worry she’ll run out of money. So now she has a new date and everything got pushed off. She still doesn’t think she’s MI. And thinks she’ll get out of this! With this new lawyer she will have to do a lot - show up, probation, etc. and I know it’s only a matter of time before She misses a meeting and gets arrested - they are court ordered appointments apparently. She’s always not feeling well. And she doesn’t have a car. She’s been renting cars (he car was taken from
Her after the first incident and she never got it back. We can’t seem to get answers, but anyway - she rents cars - I can’t believe She still has her license!! Lately she has been kinda normal. Course it’s only as long as we don’t ruffle her feathers - like walking on eggshells. Thanks

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PS. You’re not the first person who said it may not be a bad place for her!! :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the update on your sister. I’m glad she got a new lawyer, chances are anything she paid to the old one will not be refunded, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. It is likely statistically that if she gets probation that there will be violations of probation in her future, which usually means jail or prison to the full amount of the law. (My husband made it 2.5 years through probation and then a traffic ticket, and revocation of probation and prison occurred.) Any violation of the law while on probation can be cause for a revocation of probation and incarceration for your sister. I know you don’t wish this for her, however, things are going to run their course. Try to stay hopeful, and keep looking for ways to make the situation better. Please be kind to yourself, you just can’t fix everything.

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Thanks! That’s so true! we all kinda feel like it’s only a matter of time before she is unable to comply with the probation meetings. Her next court date is Feb 3 and that’s all we know- she acts like nothing is wrong when we see her and honestly we don’t want to pry cuz she’s liable to blow up!! Thanks for your support

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I wouldn’t pry either if I was you, @Merideth80 , and the fact that she acts like nothing is wrong is pretty normal in my opinion. Remember, the sz makes it very hard to get important thoughts and to communicate them, so it is probably very hard for her to add up all the factors and talk about them. Maybe she will be able to stay on probation, there is always that chance.

Did you ever contact NAMI as @Maggotbrane suggested? I loved their family to family course, and am still friends with other family members of afflicted that I met years ago through NAMI. It helped my constant worrying a lot to learn what NAMI offered and to go to support groups. NAMI also helped me to know how to manage my daughter’s illness and jump on the chance to get her help (that she didn’t want). It is a mostly volunteer group of leaders who have lived experience in dealing with mental illness in loved ones.

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Thanks @oldladyblue I did look at the NAMI offerings - excellent. I haven’t gotten that far w my involvement. If she were my child or even my sister for that matter I may invest more time than I already have. I honestly am swamped with my own life and young child to raise and a huge job responsibilities - this is such an invasion of my time! I know I sound selfish but there’s only so much I can do. My husband sees a therapist about it. Her father (92 yrs old) was hospitalized from
Nerves after her last visit and she is not allowed back to their home because of the upset she causes (she’s a fighter!! And screamer ) Since the speeding and fleeing the cops happened down by the beach where they live all the court proceedings and everything is happening there - about 2 hrs south of us - she lives closer to us up North. (45 min from us luckily so she can’t just pop in so easily). So my in laws were kind enough to take her in for the night when she had to go to court and my MIL even accompanied her, (father is too weak) - however now she’s abused them and had a big fight and they are not going to let her stay there again. My FIL Was so upset he ended up in the ER! They can’t put up with her - she’s been abusing them for years - all of us with her angry screaming fits. - this is all before we knew she was SZ. It’s morphed into SZ. She was just nasty and narcissistic and hypochondriac (has had 20 + surgeries - always injured - started w a car accident 30 yrs ago that led to a lifetime on disability and going to doctors). Anyway she will have to get a hotel or drive down herself and back (We will see how that goes when the time comes). She is still driving a rental car. I don’t know how this happened? She had a clean record prior to this night where the cops tried to pull her over and the voices told her to flee. And that’s when all the trouble began. Thanks for listening - I just can only do so much. We care for her and then she does something awful and abuses her parents and then we just don’t want to be around her! I feel sorry for her on one had and then am so angry at her on the other for the upset she has caused in the family

I understand that you wonder how this happened. I don’t think anyone knows how psychosis happens, especially if it isn’t drug induced. You are correct that there is only so much you can do to help her, and the others in your family who are affected by her. Your SIL should be warned now that she will need to get a hotel for her next court date, so it doesn’t become a scene if she finds out too close to that date.

Sometimes the person can be normal and up emotionally, and then like a flash be hallucinating and down emotionally. I will never forget my daughter’s physical power when she chased me through the house and grabbed me prior to my first call to the police about her (and her first forced hospitalization). She was shockingly strong. I am lucky that others were home to hear my cry for help. I felt so bad calling the police, but I felt I had no choice.

Take care of yourself.

@oldladyblue. Very good advice. I will tell my husband to let her know ASAP that she needs to make arrangements if she plans to spend the night down there. Most likely she will drive back - amazing she still drives! One of the towns that she sped thru that fateful night confiscated her car and she can’t get it back - can’t find it…they probably sold it and I wish I was lying — Corrupt town! She’s too weak to fight it. Anyway - So now she rents cars. We don’t really understand it all as she won’t share it with us. And asking her is like waking the beast. She gets very upset when anyone inquires about her business. Thanks for your support! Have a good day!

Wow, they “can’t find” her car? There should at least be records. When a car is confiscated or towed, the yard charges a very high fee daily for storage. If the car is never picked up, the yard will sell the car to cover the fees after a time. It is quite a business. You do have to fight for your car in a limited amount of time. I once rescued a car of mine that was towed from a mechanic’s parking lot. The mechanic got evicted, then sick, or jailed or something, and I went through a lot of hoops to find my car. I only got it back by going to the towing yard who got it back from the man they “sold” it to. I told them I was calling the police to report it stolen. That worked. But it was a private company, not a city yard.

It is a shame your SIL has such severe mental illness she can’t recognize. It makes it hard to help her, especially when she is touchy and blows up unpredictably.

I know it’s crazy- we tried to ask her about her car but she won’t talk about it. I called the small town it was towed from and their storage fee was $5 a day - but now it’s over a yr and I’m sure it’s gone. Weird- we don’t understand she didn’t fight for it- maybe she did? They did a feature in the paper on this towns corrupt police and busted them for stealing cars- it’s a mess but I can’t get involved- we didn’t even show her the article as it would just upset her. I think the car is gone for good. She’s also getting evicted from her condo (she owns it I guess they will force her to sell?) but again we have vague info as she won’t talk about it. Her behavior is so bad w the neighbors for years - finally they’ve had enough - this is another issue we will soon have to face. Can’t imagine anyone renting to her. Within a week she would have an altercation with a neighbor or will do something to get evicted. She has a mind of her own! She’s alway right! Always has been! It’s a complicated mess that I could get involved in deeply or back off - that’s where I am now - backing off cuz she won’t let us “in”. also it’s not appreciated at all. We’ve done a lot for her and it’s never enough. Or she gets mad cuz we threw out something - hoping the eviction takes a long time so she has time to get it together - she says she wants to move but does nothing about it. Of course she’s in no mind to oversee a big move - her house is like a horder house too! I can’t even think about what is ahead for her and for us!! Ugh! Thanks

When my daughter was in her episodes and wouldn’t come out of her room, it took WEEKS of knocking on her door nightly to ask her to take a walk with me before it became a regular routine to go out with me for 15 minutes a day.

Your SIL may respond to gently asking her by phone daily or every few days what help she needs to sell her condo. It would be best if she could get into a small house where there is no condo association. But working on one problem at a time is a good idea. She can’t process all of her problems at once (lawsuit, car, condo) so picking only one to try to handle might work.

A lawyer I work with had his older brother move to a house from an apartment where neighbors weren’t so involved. Condo associations are notoriously nosy places. His brother got sz in his older years, shocking the whole family. Eventually the brother left the home his family bought for him. They don’t know where he is now, possibly homeless or dead.

You are right to back off from her problems and give yourself time and emotions back. We all need space.