That Overdue ‘Twilight’ Book & DVD Could Get You Arrested

For more than four years we’ve been telling you about libraries turning to the police to crack down on overdue items, and yet some book-borrowing people out there have not gotten the message. Thus, a woman in New Mexico recently spent a night in jail because she spent two years not returning a copy of sparkly vampire novel Twilight and the DVD of one of the films in the series.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the woman was arrested in front of her five kids after she failed to appear in court to answer for a summons regarding $35.98 in overdue library materials.

Her attorney claims the summons and all other documents were sent to an address the woman hadn’t lived at since she was a child.

And the police weren’t sent to the woman’s home to arrest her. Instead, they had arrived at the house to investigate allegations that her husband had assaulted another person.

But during their investigation, police noticed the outstanding warrant on the woman.

She ended up spending the night in jail before being released the next morning on a $610 bond.

The Journal reports that charges appear to have been dropped against the woman, who claims to not recall ever checking the items out.

While we have your attention, here are some of the greatest hits in the history of people who were Arrested For Being Overdue:

*Library Sends Police After 5-Year-Old Girl To Tell Her To Pay Up Or Return Two Overdue Books
* George Washington Owes $300K For Overdue Library Books
* Judge Fired In The Case Of The Overdue DVD
* Iowa Woman Arrested For Failing To Return Library Book
* 6 Days In Jail For Overdue Library Books

Comments

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  1. Coffee says:

    Before people get into a froth about this, she went to jail because she had an outstanding warrant, not because she had an overdue library book. She failed to appear in court. Sure, she could be right and someone swiped her library card/identity to check out the items – as far-fetched as that may sound – and the documents went to the wrong address…or she could have checked out the items, one a library card and failed to update her address in the system – something probably a little more plausible. But that’s all beside my original point – no, she did not go to jail for having an overdue library book.

    • Coffee says:

      Egads…

      “…checked out the items on a library card…” FTFY, moron.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      Yes, but it’s still ludicrous. They shouldn’t be issuing warrants based on civil cases for small amounts of money. They should have at most allowed garnishment of wages or seizure of property to pay the debt after a default ruling against her.

      • Coffee says:

        I understand where you’re coming from, and this kind of thing is really a no-win for everyone involved, no matter what happens. Even if they garnish her wages, the cost to process the paperwork, handle it in court, etc. is going to far exceed any money recovered. On the other hand, I don’t know if the court should establish a precedent where they shrug their shoulders when people don’t respond to a summons…judges typically get a little punchy when they feel the process isn’t being respected.

        • daemonaquila says:

          The cost of involving the city or county attorney, hauling them into court, etc. is even higher.

          • Coffee says:

            I understand what you’re saying, and I haven’t weighed in on whether I think the incident should have gone to court at all. The fact is that it was in court, she didn’t show up, and a bench warrant was issued. If we want to have a separate conversation addressing whether the case should have been brought to court in the first place, then I would be happy to, but it might not be as contentious as you suspect. Personally, I think that libraries should have an intersystem database that prohibits everyone from checking out a book at any library until they resolve debts owed.

        • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

          Well, court costs can be included, too, but filing costs for small claims are, well, small. And their other options are 1) sell the debt to a collection agency, become even more reviled, and collect pennies on the dollar, or 2) ignore it if it’s too small to warrant the expense (*rimshot*).

      • daemonaquila says:

        Exactly. I worked for a judge who took a very dim view of merchants that used the cops and criminal justice system to collect on bounced checks, etc. The most fabulous thing I ever saw, was when the courtroom was full of these misdemeanor cases one morning because the local Burger King had gone under and bounced every employee’s last paycheck. It was the first of the month, and every single employee had gone to the grocery store, written checks, and those checks had in turn bounced, and… After about the 3rd case, he got wise to what was going on, and asked the prosecutor whether he had charged the owners of the Burger King as well. The answer was no. Why not? “Because, uh, we just didn’t think of it.”

        The judge had the 3 defendants who were already at the court administrator’s office paying their fines fetched back by the bailiff, reviewed the files of everyone who’d been charged due to this incident, and dismissed every last case. He then looked at the prosecutor and said, “Don’t ever bring another case like this into my courtroom, unless you’ve first charged the responsible parties at the company who caused the mess in the first place.”

        • AtlantaCPA says:

          I would love to go back in time and be you just to see that happen. It’s what we all dream judges will do.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      I think this should be a death penalty offense – not being over due, but the fact that it was Twilight!

    • chrisb71 says:

      no, she was jailed because the summons was sent in the mail first of all, to the wrong address secondly. There is a reason subpoenas are hand-delivered, though many courts allow certified mail, this means nothing, it just means there was a building there with the street address. Thirdly, this was a court summons for debt. Debtors prisons were made illegal a long time ago, but that is exactly what is going on, and the problem is getting larger:

      http://finance.yahoo.com/news/jailed-for–280–the-return-of-debtors–prisons.html

  2. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    All of that just because of an overdue library book? Being arrested in front of her kids? What is this world coming to? She should sue someone.

    • daemonaquila says:

      Who the *bleep* cares that she was arrested in front of her kids? You may agree or disagree with the point of a misdemeanor charge, then a warrant, for an overdue book, but once police are supposed to bring someone in, there’s no reasonable argument for why they shouldn’t be arrested just because they’re in around certain people.

      • Coffee says:

        I’m reasonably certain that, given his posting history, TMM is being facetious and poking fun at the mentality of victimization that some people have.

    • Smiling says:

      Good, it teaches her children that if they break the law, they get arrested. I’m assuming since her husband allegedly assaulted someone, and she is so inconsiderate as to deny other readers a copy of the movie and book that does not belong to her, that they aren’t getting much teaching from them.

    • Smiling says:

      Good, it teaches her children that if they break the law, they get arrested. I’m assuming since her husband allegedly assaulted someone, and she is so inconsiderate as to deny other readers a copy of the movie and book that does not belong to her, that they aren’t getting much teaching from them.

  3. mauispiderweb says:

    Yes, you pay your taxes.

    No, library materials don’t belong to you because you pay your taxes.

    People, just return the items you borrow, in the condition you received it in, and pay your f’ing fines!

    • MMD says:

      Yes to all of the above…but does the punishment really fit the crime here?

      • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

        Being arrested for failure to appear in court when summoned? Yeah, that seems proportionate.

        • MMD says:

          I’m referring to the fact that she was summoned in court over 2 missing library items in the first place.

          • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

            It’s hard for me to find that a problem, at least in theory. If the items haven’t been returned for two years, it seems like we’re moving from “forgot to return it” into “stole it from the library” territory. So, being summoned to court doesn’t seem that unreasonable.
            But hey, IANAL. I am not even a Librarian. So, it’s only ever just my two pence.

            • RandomHookup says:

              But if you were a lawyer AND a librarian??? That would be awesome!

            • MMD says:

              I just can’t see the point of a court case over $35.98. Some retail outlets wouldn’t even bother with pressing shoplifting charges against someone who stole that little

          • Charmander says:

            In my book, when you borrow something and don’t return it, it is stealing. I think being summoned to court is entirely appropriate.

            The fact that she failed to show up is what got her arrested.

        • chrisb71 says:

          to a summons sent in the MAIL, to the WRONG ADDRESS?

          no

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      For some reason my pet peeve is when people borrow books from me, and then return it to me with the pages/covers wrinkled beyond belief, and act like they didn’t notice it. Then they get outraged when I point it out to them, because I’m just being too “fussy” and overdramatic about the whole thing. I don’t mind as much if it was accidental, but it was pretty obvious they really didn’t care about taking care of the borrowed item. I also hate it if they constantly “forget” to return it.

      I’m sorry if other people can’t take good care of their own stuff, but if I borrow something from people, I make sure I return it in its pre-borrowed condition. Or at least I take measures to make sure I avoid messing it up as best as possible.

      I guess it’s just me — I guess I’m just anal when it comes to my personal belongings. But I’d be more inclined to lend stuff to someone if I know they’re going to take good care of it.

      • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

        I loaned a paperback book to a friend who I later found was somewhat less than careful with books. I saw her put the book down face-down, cracking the spine to keep it open, and I pretty much lost it. I refused to loan her any more books after that.

        • OttersArePlentiful says:

          And the friends who dog-ear pages! It’s not that hard to find something to use as a bookmark. I hate when people assume you’re “too picky” about your books when you complain about how they’ve treated them (bent covers, torn or creased pages, cracked spines, etc.)

      • OttersArePlentiful says:

        This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Once, way back in high school, I lent a book to a friend. When she gave it back, it looked BETTER than before. She admitted to me that she’d accidentally messed up the cover, so she bought me a new copy, laminated the cover of the old one, and donated it to the school library.

        If only more people were like this when it came to borrowing books!

  4. daemonaquila says:

    I think this went down in a way that’s a colossal waste of law enforcement and court resources, but in theory I can’t entirely object to it. There’s a line where “overdue” becomes theft – but I think we need to have that line codified in a statue versus leaving it to library administrators or prosecutors to decide that. Also, if they’re going to start issuing warrants for theft, they’d better start verifying addresses and ID a lot better, and post notices at the checkout.

    I do understand the frustration that led to this. I have been a borrower at a number of libraries where theft is rampant. Good luck ever getting books you want. Cheap-ass readers stole the popular fiction, college students stole texts, and religious nuts stole “controversial” books to keep anyone from being able to read them. It’s ridiculous.

  5. Smiling says:

    So basically, you can say that you don’t ever recall doing something and that gets you out of the crime? “Sorry officer, I don’t recall ever speeding.” Well, okay ma’am, you can go then.”

    • daemonaquila says:

      That’s not how it would’ve gone down in court. The warrant would’ve been issued because she didn’t show up after notice. If she convinced the court she didn’t get notice because she hasn’t lived at that address for years, then there isn’t a basis for the warrant for failing to show up. Charges wouldn’t be dropped because she “didn’t recall ever checking the items out.” They would be dropped because there was insufficient evidence that she was involved. Identity theft defense seems to have worked.

  6. Schildkrote says:

    A post involving Twilight without a smug remark about how terrible the writing is?

    …I’ve got no complaints. Kudos, Consumerist.

  7. Kuri says:

    So she wasn’t arrested for reading Twilight?

    Damn.

  8. Bodger says:

    Incompetence on the part of the court. They have to be able to prove that the summons was served and served on the correct person for it to have any standing. That is the reason that in the civilized parts of the US, service will either be in person (big cases) or in the form of a certified letter (all other cases) with a mandatory return receipt — that green card is the proof in court that the service was made.

  9. Jawaka says:

    This will be a good lesson for her 5 kids. You fulfill your obligations otherwise there will be consequences.

  10. Warren - the Original Chocolate Cake with Eyes! says:

    “That Overdue ‘Twilight’ Book & DVD Could Get You Arrested”

    It could also get you beat up, depending on your age and where you live.

  11. carlogesualdo says:

    This is SO wrong. Libraries don’t have the luxury of treating patrons like criminals by sending them to court when they don’t pay fines. Yes, it hurts when people borrow things and don’t return them. But don’t you think it’s going to hurt a LOT more than that when people who are afraid of getting arrested simply stop coming to the library. When usage drops, your tax allocation gets cut.

    • InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

      From the story, it seems like she didn’t return the materials (because she says she never checked them out). So, it’s not like this is *just* for not paying fines. She’s essentially stolen materials from the library.

      • carlogesualdo says:

        In this case, it doesn’t matter whether she agrees she checked them out or if she did, in fact, steal them. When this issue was submitted to the court, the library was operating under the assumption that she had checked out the items, that she had not returned them, and that she had ignored the library’s attempts to contact her regarding payment of the replacement charges. The library doesn’t know if she stole them or otherwise. The only way I can see clear to turning her in to the court system is if she had a past pattern of the same behavior (which we have no way of knowing from this story). This is PR suicide for a public library because it tells the people who need the library most to stay away in order to avoid prosecution in the courts.

        I completely agree that people should simply return what they borrow. But sometimes life gets in the way and things get overlooked. Do you know how often people move and library books get packed with other belongings? And then there are folks living in poverty who were able to get to the library to borrow materials but then couldn’t get back to return them.

    • Jawaka says:

      Another way of looking at it is that usage will go us since more people can now borrow that stolen book now that its been recovered.

    • Conformist138 says:

      This actually happened to a friend of mine years ago. He had some books out for a long time and hadn’t returned them. Same deal–he needed the police for something else (I think someone broke into his apartment) and when they showed up and had his info, they found a similar warrant.

      But get this: It was a felony charge for theft of government property! Absolutely not joking, the guy was poor and, like always. his representation was less than adequate and he was pressured to take a plea (and, honestly, he’s a bit mentally “off”, so he really needed a lawyer to work for him rather than push the case through) so he has a felony theft conviction on his record because of two library books.

      I think the problem is people get a library card, and then rarely bother updating the library when they move. It’s not surprising that a lot of people have accounts with addresses that are very old and no longer valid.

  12. Cheuvront says:

    I have a book that was due September 22, 1994. I don’t think it was a popular book since the only other time it was checked out it was due November 19, 1987.

  13. Delicious Spam is delicious says:

    Identity theft at libraries is rampant. Seriously. someone gets a valid library card number or some kind of ID, then checks out the top 20 from the business section, sports section or fiction or whatever. Then they go and resell them. As crazy as this sounds, it happens at least 3 times a week at my local library.

  14. frodolives35 says:

    It seems more likely that they mailed a summons to an old address causing the failure to appear warrant and she did not have a chance to clear up the matter is why she got arrested. Some times people do forget. What ever happened to a summons having to be signed by a person to be valid. Maybe that’s why the charges were dismissed. If she was arrested and the police are required to have a signed summons she might have a valid law suit for false arrest all over a petty sum and possible procedure errors by the police. Why are people so willing to not give someone the benefit of the doubt if the police are involved. People get incorrectly arrested all the time. Before you jump to the conclusion that I am a police hater know this I have 2 kids and 2 son in laws all in law enforcement. You should hear some of the behind the scene stories I have heard.

  15. 401k says:

    They need to send Mr. Bookman. He sure did a good job of hunting down that copy of Tropic of Cancer copy that Costanza never returned.