Helping a daughter who is far from home
May 11, 2013 3:29 PM   Subscribe

My daugter, age 22, is in trouble a long, long way from home (Burlington, VT; her mom and I are in middle GA) with the family car. She had an accident, her fault. Nobody was hurt, thank heavens, but she was arrested (for the record, not DUI) and the car was towed off and impounded. It is pretty badly damaged and not driveable. There's no other car to use. The disabled one is running up a $50 per day impound fee which I need to stop as soon as I can. Probably I should just give it to a junkyard and let them haul it off, but I've got no notion how to arrange that. More important, what can I do from here to help my girl? Can I find her an attorney by remote control somehow? What else should I be thinking about? Ideas and advice? I would be very grateful!
posted by jfuller to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I am a parent so I know exactly how you feel but this is a great opportunity for her to act like an adult who can solve her own problems. Absolutely let her know that you have her back and that you believe she is capable and that if it is overwhelming you will give her guidance but as she is not injured she should be able to problem solve most of this herself. That being said, if you have the financial resources and she is a bit tight, this might be a good time for an early birthday gift of cash for her incidental expenses. I don't see an immediate need for a lawyer, she has already spoken to the police and the actual court date won't be Monday (she's not in jail, right? Because then yeah, google up the local lawyer) Let her know you will sort out her responsibility for replacing the family car later in a fair manner and that you still love her.
posted by saucysault at 3:51 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

The first thing I would do is call the impound lot and get clarification on the options for getting the car out of impound--if it is titled/registered to some one other your daughter get clarification on what needs to be done to get it towed to a body shop, declared abandoned, etc. I am confident they can give you the name of junkyards etc. If they are not helpful, or can not be reached, the information might be available through the clerk of courts office in that jurisdiction--I imagine google can help you sort out which court handles traffic accidents. As for an attorney--without a specific reference it is a crap shoot. I would use this resource in Burlington to find an attorney--do not use advertisements etc. This resource is unbiased and at least you know the attorneys are licensed to practice and in good standing. If the "impounder"or clerk of courts can not give you an answer I am confident the attorney will secure the information for you--but as you can guess you will pay. This may be the proper court to secure information Good Luck
posted by rmhsinc at 3:54 PM on May 11, 2013

Re the impound fees -- when my car was stolen, stripped, and ended up in an impound lot, I was given the choice to surrender it to the lot. At which point I would then owe them no money. My guess is that the impound lots sell the car as scrap/to a junkyard. If this is an option, and you were going to be getting rid of it anyway, that's probably a no brainer choice.

The above is something your daughter should do if at all possible (would maybe depend on who it's registered to).

As to what you should do to help her out, I think getting a referral to an attorney wouldn't be out of bounds. At 22 I had no fucking CLUE how to go about getting a lawyer, whereas even if you don't know anyone in Vermont or have anyone in Georgia, you probably have more resources there than she does.

I think in general, a good boundary would be that you can help her get access to stuff and answer her questions about HOW to accomplish things, but it is her responsibility to actually use the stuff and do the things. You can give her your wisdom. You can't do it for her.
posted by Sara C. at 4:01 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Possibly a crazy idea but can you have the car donated to NPR or something? See when the earliest is that they could pick it up. Then it's no longer an issue and you have a tax write-off. Is she a student? Does her university have student legal services?

You know how mature your daughter is and how she's doing. Yes, this is a teachable moment but be careful about what you're teaching her - that she's an adult who can take care of herself or that her parents won't help her when she's in a crisis.
posted by kat518 at 4:12 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, she's in jail. Or anyway in police custody. She acted so crazy after the accident they sent her to a hospital for mental evaluation.

I have no idea. She has no history of mental disturbance and has never been in police trouble before. Anyway she won't be able to act for herself any time soon and OMG may not even be competent to act for herself.
posted by jfuller at 4:17 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Consider that the accident may have been caused by whatever is making her 'act crazy.' Is it an option for you to go out there and get her checked out medically?

I was all for tough love until you said she has new mental symptoms. This sounds like a time when she needs someone out there to help.
posted by thatone at 4:28 PM on May 11, 2013 [35 favorites]

Can you get to her? I feel like her health/mental state is a bigger issue than the car right now.
posted by sweetkid at 4:30 PM on May 11, 2013 [15 favorites]

Save the tough love until she's out of jail.

Here is a list of criminal defense attorneys in Chittenden County.
posted by ewiar at 4:32 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

> Can you get to her?

I can get there one way or the other. Plane, or long bus trip. If I can do anything useful once I'm there. I'm trying to make a list of exactly that but I have zero experience at this kind of thing and I ain't at my best and brightest right now anyway. Arraignment Monday--if the hospital lets her go. I have talked to her on the phone (one advantage of a hospital over jail) and she sounds perfectly normal, not raving or anything. Actually I was reading to her over the phone (Ozma of Oz) when some sort of counselor came in and wanted her. Calling back later.
posted by jfuller at 4:53 PM on May 11, 2013

If you decide to fly, try Priceline, but also contact airlines directly to ask whether they have an emergency fare. Unless your finances are really tight, I'd recommend flying; you'll arrive far less travelworn than if you go by bus, and you'll be in a better position to help out.

Good luck, and I hope that your daughter is OK. Hopefully she was just in shock after the crash.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:10 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've had a some recent experience with part of what you're going through - my 23 year old daughter slid off an icy interstate about 6 weeks ago. (For the record, it was her first accident and I walked her through the entire process, i.e., it was a "teachable moment". She could have done it without me, of course, but it would have been more difficult/stressful. Next time she will be prepared to handle it on her own.)

Re the car - unless it is very obviously totalled, I would look into having it towed to a garage for an estimate before surrendering it in lieu of impound fees. After the insurance company decided that my daughter's 20 year old car was totalled, the shop paid her $200 for the car.

What was she charged with?

Have you spoken with her or anyone where she is being held?
posted by she's not there at 5:10 PM on May 11, 2013

Just read your update. Perhaps you can speak with the person in charge of her case - she would need to sign a release, of course.
posted by she's not there at 5:12 PM on May 11, 2013

Airlines will sometimes give you a deal in a situation like this. Your daughter was in an accident and she's now in the hospital, don't share details beyond these. I did this a few years ago, called the airline (USAir) genuinely frantic to get to a relative in the hospital and they got me on the next flight at the lowest rate.

I'm the mother of grown kids and this all sounds strange enough that I would want to be there. It doesn't sound like it's just a case of irresponsible kid behavior. Taking buses from here (I'm in Georgia too) to there would be horrendous. The train would possibly take less time and be more comfortable if you can't fly.
posted by mareli at 5:25 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

If you're purchasing last minute flights, the old school airlines try to screw you over. The new discount players do not do the price spike near departure thing. Southwest flies into Manchester NH and jetBlue flies into Burlington, so I'd look there first.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:39 PM on May 11, 2013

Probably I should just give it to a junkyard and let them haul it off,

Maybe, if it was already an old car that wasn't worth much, and which you didn't have insured beyond liability. But if it was insured against collision damage, an insurance adjuster will need to look at it to determine whether it gets scrapped. This may be obvious, but I'm throwing it out there in case you're not thinking clearly.
posted by jon1270 at 5:47 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

The first person to contact with the car is the insurance company. They will take care of having the car evaluated and, if it is not totaled, towed to a garage to be repaired. (This is assuming your insurance company is reliable and customer friendly. Mine is-- in the event of accidents and theft/recoveries, I call them up and they take care of everything)
posted by deanc at 5:50 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your daughter is in the hospital and likely being detained. I am all for teachable moments, but this is not it. This is your daughter. If it were mine, and I was able to speak to her on the phone, I would ask her what I could do to help including coming up to where she is and just holding her hand through the process.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:55 PM on May 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

> It doesn't sound like it's just a case of irresponsible kid behavior.

No, I don't think so either.

> What was she charged with? Have you spoken with her or anyone where she is being held?

> Perhaps you can speak with the person in charge of her case - she would need to sign a release, of course.

I have a case number from the police but don't know the charge. And the name of someone at the hospital. I'll dig deeper into both of those tomorrow morning.

Thanks for the find a lawyer links, I'll use them. Wish tomorrow wasn't Sunday. I certainly won't be getting there by Monday. If she does go before a judge Monday there won't be anyone with her at all most likely. I suppose I should tell her to enter a not guilty plea so they'll set bail and a trial date. I can find a bondsman on the phone, surely, and tell her to go to a motel and stay there until I can make it to Burlington and bring her home.

> Maybe, if it was already an old car that wasn't worth much, and which you didn't have insured beyond liability.

It's a 13 year old Dodge, and I just have liability. The car is no worry. The $50 per day is. We'll soon have better uses for that than storing the remains of a car. I can live without a car.

> Consider that the accident may have been caused by whatever is making her 'act crazy.'

Yeah. Whatever it was, I hope it isn't easy to find in Burlington if you don't know anybody.
posted by jfuller at 6:15 PM on May 11, 2013

Flying to Burlington is far preferable to flying to Manchester or Boston. (Montreal is actually closer than Manchester, if you've got a passport. But I don't know if you could take a rental car across the border, so you might have to take Greyhound.)

If you're calling airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United and USAir fly to Burlington. The same for Manchester, but Southwest instead of JetBlue.
posted by hoyland at 6:18 PM on May 11, 2013

Umnn, you have seen the oft quoted "Don't Talk To The Police" video, right?
Also there's a book just out which details the author's autoimmune disease which was causing her to appear psychotic. Just pointing out there could be other causes besides drugs.
posted by Sophont at 6:22 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am sorry you are dealing with this. I live in Vermont about an hour and change from Burlington and I'd be happy to help on Monday if there's something useful I could do. I don't know any of those criminal attorneys, but there's a MeFite I know who is a criminal defense attorney and I'll MeMail you her contact information. If the car is in donateable shape then you can donate it to Good News Garage, they're our local "donate a car to a good cause" charity. Otherwise you could have it brought to a garage for repair (if you have AAA+ you get a bunch of towing free) here's Yelp's ratings of local garages.

I have been the driver in this exact same situation. Here is what happened to me

- I stayed in the hospital until the results of my drug tests came back (negative!) which was an extra day or so. I was not charged, but I did have a friend of the family who was a lawyer make some phone calls to assess the situation. If you know a lawyer even who is not local, having them make some calls tonight might be useful.
- my mom and sister flew out to get me and did not get any special rates unfortunately
- they were allowed to go to my (busted up) car to get my things out of it
- the car went back to the impound lot and later to a nearby cousins (via an auto shipping place) and I eventually got it. This was expensive.

JetBlue is the nicest way to get in to Burlington. The Travelodge, Sheraton, Holiday Inn Express and DoubleTree are all decent places that are about $120/night and are a good split between really skeevy and really fancy.

She will not have to go before a judge without a lawyer, she'll get a PD if she has to be charged with anything (check your MeMail). The good news is she's in a very good hospital (if she's at Fletcher Allen) and Vermont tends to be very very reasonable about ... most things. If I can help at all on Monday, please let me know, I'm around during the day til 6. If you need a couch to crash on an hour+ outside of town, let me know.
posted by jessamyn at 6:29 PM on May 11, 2013 [28 favorites]

> Just pointing out there could be other causes besides drugs.

I'm not jumping to any conclusions until I've talked to the MD at the hospital, promise.
posted by jfuller at 6:32 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

PS I think I've had it for tonight, crashing rapidly. I'll check back in the AM. Thanks very much, everybody, I'm very very glad y'all are there!

posted by jfuller at 6:49 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was able to take rentals from the US into Canada; don't know how it works the other way.
posted by brujita at 7:59 PM on May 11, 2013

I would strongly suggest buying a plane ticket for tomorrow and getting there Sunday night. Its your kid and this sounds out of character for her. It seems possible that something might be wrong with her and that she needs your help. There is no substitute for being there.
posted by saradarlin at 10:50 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Attorney attorney attorney. Pronto. That's what can make a difference between something that has life long consequences versus something that's a life long lesson. If this were her third or fourth or even second time getting into trouble I might be more on the side of people counseling self reliance. But not yet. If you can at all afford a lawyer, get one for her ASAP. The lawyer will be hers (ie, can't break her confidentiality to anyone including you) but you pay them. This is so common and a big part of how kids with privileged backgrounds stay privileged, and kids without them get worse and worse off, despite perfectly equivalent behavior.

I would prioritize getting her a lawyer even over you getting there yourself, and I would prioritize getting there yourself pretty highly. This is a first time thing (hopefully an only time) and in case you need to hear it from an outside party not immediate affected by adrenaline and feelings, this is a big deal.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:37 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have little specific to offer terms of advice, but I live right in Burlington, so Mefimail me if you need local legs for something and I'll do what I can.
posted by meinvt at 6:46 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Update: my daughter is OK but is still being held--by a hospital in Burlington (Fletcher Allen) not by the cops. She apparently had a full-on episode of delusional manic psychosis and was driving the way she was driving because of that. And it doesn't look drug related. All drug tests negative except residual cannabis. (Heh, that's how dad would test too. Must be genetic.) The people at the hospital seem very competent and very concerned, and I'm convinced she's in good hands for the moment. Though I want her home and I'll be flying up to get her at the drop of a hat, the moment the various authorities say she can leave. US Airways has direct little-airplane discount flights from ATL to Burlington for $270 as compared to $500-700 for the full-price airlines. The neighbor Jessamyn put me in touch with (attorney Kelly Green Esq.) was most extremely helpful (and calming!) and I can't thank her or Jessamyn enough.
posted by jfuller at 6:27 PM on May 15, 2013 [13 favorites]

Thanks for the update jfuller. Fingers crossed she can come home soon.
posted by sweetkid at 6:43 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

So glad she was helpful. I was in a suffrage-march-reenactment parade this weekend (shut up) and the photo of the parade was on the same page as the (brief) story about your daughter. I am very glad she's okay and hope for her continued recovery.
posted by jessamyn at 6:47 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thinking of you, jfuller. I hope that your daughter recovers soon.
posted by bardophile at 8:52 AM on May 18, 2013

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