Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Sister in Law in big trouble w law: we are lost at what to do

My Husbands sister is SZ. We suspected it for years and finally saw the diagnosis on the release papers from the psych hospital that we found in her townhouse. We have dealt with her many visits to psych HOSP but never get info due to privacy laws and she certainly won’t cooperate with us and tell us anything. She is 63 yrs old and very difficult and scary and has gotten worse over the years. She is a recluse and hears voices (CIA, FBI, etc…) We can’t talk to her about it as she gets very angry. Some days she’s ok but lately she’s been really bad (off her meds?) So- here’s the bad part: A yr ago she was in a “state” and drove 90 min South to the beach where her parents live (my in laws - who are elderly!) and on her way she went on a wild chase through 5 small beach towns at 80 mph before landing at my in-laws driveway where they arrested her- they saw she was a mental mess and took her to the mental hospital down there! The next day the police from one town came and seized her car and then she got slapped with tons of tickets and fines and court dates. Her dad and step mom found an attorney for her down there. And he thought he could get her off these charges based on her mental state. She stayed in the hospital for only 2 wks down there and then came back to her home up here (north) and said she was handling the Legal stuff w her lawyer - she refused to talk to us about it! She went back to her life (living in her townhouse - hearing voices - arguing with everyone - very hard to be with). She rented a car somehow to get around but then that got seized. And this week my in-laws were waken up at 7 am to 6 cops looking to arrest her- she never showed up to court! They said “she doesn’t even live here…lives up North!” So now we are involved- but don’t know what to do! She refuses to cooperate! They want $5k for bond (set at $50K) and she’s to go turn herself in to her local police. They will book her and then release her and give her a new court date. (And If she even shows up for that court date she will likely get jail time cuz she blew off 2 dates already) We fear they will put her in jail for a long time! She has $5K. That’s not the problem- the problem is she thinks everything is OK and that the FBI has it taken care of!
We spoke to her Lawyer who we learned that he hasn’t talked to her in months! He said he can’t reach her - she doesn’t respond to his numerous letters or calls and that all he was doing to get her off on mental charges is no longer an option since she blew off 2 court dates. I think he has given up on her. Now what?? She goes to jail? She’s so uncooperative and mental that I could see her fighting with a cop and getting a longer sentence. We fear for her life but don’t know what to do. Right now it’s only a matter of time before she’s arrested (there’s a warrant out on her). She’s cooped up in her home- using Uber’s to get around - if she even leaves? My husband went and she didn’t answer - she won’t answer calls either. Her other brother went to see her -he has a key - and she was very difficult. Wouldn’t listen to the charges she’s been charged with… the voices in the TV are telling her what to do… Wouldn’t turn herself in.
What will happen to her? Should we call the mental hospital and have her committed? She doesn’t belong in jail. She’ll die there! She belongs in a mental home (but where are these homes? Who’d want her? She’s really miserable to be with and can’t deal In society). Would appreciate any insight on what to do here. I don’t know if she can be saved?

its a function of the state and county, if she is SZ, they will not jail her but commit for assessment, either release to the streets or a facility…

much you can do if you can afford it, non voluntary commit is only short term, long term planning required, buy her a house, condo, trailer, she cant drive anymore, in the end its is completely her choice if released…

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I feel for you and your sister. It’s a difficult situation. Some thoughts even though this isn’t my area of expertise, my sister and mother have largely dealt with my brother’s legal issues.

First, I would get in touch with a local NAMI chapter and consider hiring your own lawyer to consult and/or represent your sister in law. Laws relating to mental illness, commitment, and criminal justice systems vary from state to state. And the quality of hospitals vary from county to county as well.

It may be beneficial to try to get her involuntarily committed and treated before she is arrested. It seems to me that it could be argued that she’s a threat to herself and others because she doesn’t understand or respect the warrants out for her arrest and she’s shown a history of driving recklessly.

Depending on the state you are in, there may be some court enforcement of treatment and other programs to divert her away from jail, but if not a good lawyer should be able to argue there should be. Believe me, jails will not want to deal with her unmedicated any more than you want her there. I have a friend who works in one of those rare old school mental hospitals, and she sees transfers of inmates all the time, so even if she’s sentenced to jail, there a possibility she could be transferred for treatment (depending on the state)

Another risky choice would be for a lawyer to attempt to show that she doesn’t understand the charges and is unfit for trial. My understanding is this is extremely hard to pull off, and even if successful may abridge her rights in the future. I actually had the opposite problem when I was ill. I wanted to turn myself in for perceived crimes so the FBI etc would stop following me, but was advised by a lawyer it was unwise and that attempts at any sort of insanity defense were likely futile.

Awareness of the problem of incarceration of the SMI is much better now, so you may live in a state where the courts have caught up with this issue. Since money seems like it’s not a significant issue, there may be a trust set up for her. If so, you may ask your parents if you spouse can be set up to control it as they age, if not you should look into setting one up. Control of the purse strings can be a motivator toward better behavior and compliance. We’ve seen this in my brother at least.

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Thank you. She owns her townhouse now but the condo assoc I am sure wants her gone - not sure they could force her to sell. She’s a menace to neighbors. We live about 45 min away so don’t know the half of it. Thanks for your response

Thanks Maggotbrane- thoughtful response. I’m new at this. What is SMI? We have never looked into a local chapter of NAMI but I will see. It’s so thought cuz my husband is so mad he has to deal w this! I don’t want to either but if it was my sibling I would be more involved. She’s very hard to work with - argumentative And difficult - no one wants to deal w her - hence why she’s been alone for so long and ultimately I think that has had an effect on her brain. I think this runs in the family! I see odd behavior in the family and it’s scary! I’d love to walk away from it all but I don’t have the heart.
Thanks again

Sorry. We use a lot of acronyms and abbreviations here. I get tripped up from time to time too. Here’s a quick decoder ring…

SZ - Schizophrenia/Schizophrenic
SZA - Schizoaffective Disorder
AP - anti psychotic (medication)
P-doc - psychiatrist
CBT - cognitive behavioral therapy
SMI - serious mental illness (SZ, Bipolar disorders and unipolar depressions)
MI - mental illness / mentally ill.

A new one I saw lately was DD which I think means Dear Daughter, but might be something else.

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Thanks - that’s helpful!!

@Merideth80 see if they can make her bail amount higher in hopes she can be in custody longer and get stable on meds. Also, if you haven’t already join your local NAMI and see of they can suggest housing for you. Also, I found I got a lot of help from social workers at the hospital. Also, you can see if you can be a conservator over her or hire someone else to do to and control her finances in hopes of getting her to take meds. Maybe she could even qualify to be involuntarily hospitalized indefinitely at a nice facility due to her age. Hopefully they will suspend her drivers license too’

i would try to get her committed and then she should go live in a group home

if she gets committed, she has a fair chance of getting let off the charges, as the psychiatrist would put in a defence