S.C. Woman arrested for failure to return a movie rental

A woman was arrested in Pickens County on a 9 year old warrant for petty larceny for failing to return a Jennifer Lopez movie that she had rented.  According to the article, she was arrested when she went to the jail to report an unrelated crime.

Finley is charged with petite larceny, and more specifically, the now seemingly archaic charge of, “failure to return a video or cassette.”

The charge is a misdemeanor, and police told the news station they had no choice but to serve the warrant for her arrest, no matter how old or outmoded.

That’s a crock of ****.  The warrant could have been withdrawn, it could have been served on her without arrest, or the magistrate could have declined to sign it in the first place.

Forgetting to return a movie, or a library book for that matter, or losing the movie or book, is not a crime.  An element that has to be proven is criminal intent – if you did not intend to steal the movie, you are not guilty of petty larceny.  It’s a civil matter, not criminal, and the magistrate and officers involved should know better.  The problem is that it is not convenient or practical to sue a person for the value of a book or a movie; it is much easier to have to person arrested, jailed, and then ask a judge to order restitution.

It’s not an isolated incident, either.  The Smoking Gun published a collection of incident reports from January 2011 where Chapin Memorial Library in Myrtle Beach obtained warrants for people who failed to return library books:

For example, a 56-year-old man named in one report has not returned seven books (valued at $204), including “Stink and the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers.” A 22-year-old woman still has $219 worth of library items, including a VHS copy of “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.” And a 24-year-old man still has “Home Alone 2” in his home.

While warrants are issued for the overdue material, suspects are unlikely to get picked up by cops solely for failing to return a board book like “That’s Not My Dinosaur,” which remains in the possession of a 24-year-old man.

But if offenders do come into contact with police, officers “try to refrain from cuffing people” on overdue book charges, according to Lieutenant Doug Furlong.

It sounds like they are saying Myrtle Beach doesn’t arrest people for overdue book charges?  Horse****.  I have sat in Myrtle Beach Municipal Court and watched as bonds were set on people who had just spent the night in the Myrtle Beach Jail for not returning library books.  They were shackled to other inmates by their legs in rows, shuffling out to stand in front of the judge to either plead guilty or have a bond set for their release.  If they “try to refrain from cuffing people” it is brand new policy, which I doubt considering the Smoking Gun’s article and quote is over 3 years old.

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