I Fought the Law, and the Law Won, but the Law was Wasting its Time

I am a delinquent.

Yes, it’s true, I have broken the law. Several times. I have participated in underage drinking…um….vandalized a school bus seat when I was in the sixth grade…let’s see…I smoked cigarettes on and off for three months when I was sixteen…oh! And I have some overdue library books.
Out of all of those, right now I’m thinking that the one that I might have to worry about the most is the theft of library books. Because I have never been “punished” for drinking or smoking, and I was only suspended from the bus for three days for the vandalism incident (whatever, it’s not like those buses are in great condition anyway, what was the harm in a little permanent marker?).
But not returning library books? That can get you arrested.

At least, it can get you arrested in Iowa, possibly because there is nothing else to do in Iowa.

A woman in Iowa (obviously) was arrested for “stealing” a library book (obviously). The book is valued at $13.95, but she had to pay $250 to get out of jail. It’s not as though the arrest was entirely random; she checked the book out in April, was contacted repeatedly by mail and phone, and a police officer visited her home last September. All to no avail. This terrible criminal insisted on continuing with her evil ways, and clearly she got what she deserved.
Don’t worry, though, because this was only a fifth degree theft charge. See?

The theft of property not exceeding two hundred dollars in value is theft in the fifth degree. Theft in the fifth degree is a simple misdemeanor.

Yeah. That’s straight from Iowa law.

Let’s be serious for a moment. What aggravates me about this entirely idiotic course of action is how serious the theft of a library book was taken.
In my opinion, America does not deal with most of its criminals nearly harshly enough. I’ve heard of countries that take away your license after your first D.U.I., which seems entirely reasonable to me. And I’m pretty sure most other prisons don’t allow their inmates access to cable TV, pornography, and the Internet.
God forbid, however, that a woman who fails to return a library book go unpunished.

Is it just me, or is this a serious waste of taxpayers’ dollars?

Okay, I don’t have a problem with them sending the woman to jail. She wasted the time and resources of the library workers as well as the police. She could have simply paid the late fees/paid for a new book. Not that hard. She may have deprived other library patrons of the book. Clearly, this was theft. So I don’t mind that part. Except I still have library books that were due…oh….at least seven years ago.
My problem is that while police should be cracking down on people with slightly more pressing criminal issues, the only area I’ve seen a crackdown in is in library matters.

What have we learned?
Absolutely nothing, apparently.


In Georgia, the statute of limitations for simple misdemeanors is two years. So I’m a thief, but there’s nothing you can do about it.

Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. WE got a notice in the mail that we owed $39 for various fines and..the unforgiveable…an unreturned audio book tape. Actuallly we returned the case, but it only had one of the two tapes. That amounted to $14.95 plus $10 for very late overdue charge. I then did a google for my local library and found in the bylaws, article VII…”that they had the right to have us arrested and sent to jail” for an unreturned item.

    There is no way that we are going to put ourselves in a position to go to jail. As someone told me, don’t loan something unless you figure you will never get it in return. If I loan my circular saw to my neighbor, I am not taking him to court if he does not return it. I just won’t loan him anything more til he brings it back. I’ll give him the ugly look every now and then to shame him. That is what my wife thought concerning the overdue book…we cannot checkout another til we pay the fine. We have had a fine about once a year for overdue materials, but have always eventually paid….when we wanted to use the library again. Jail, arrest, or the threat of either seems extreme. I read another article where some libraries are trying another less extreme approach….your name gets put on an infamous list hung in public or they hire collection agencies to send automated phone calls to the deliquent borrowers. THere has got to be a better way then sending the police out after us. Georgia, per capita, is number 1 in people who are incarcerated or on probation. We are either all a bunch of criminals (which we are not) or the penalty of the law is taken too far (which it is). As for us, we will only use the library to look at books there that we might consider buying used at Amazon or elsewhere. The way to fight back is express disappointment to the librarian in a calm tone (which I did). And re-consider supporting increase funding through tax increases for libraries. Oh, I tried to get our library cards pulled when the librarian told me the “jail for unreturn articles” is a felony state-wide. She told me she could not remove me from the system. I told her “no, I can be if I send a letter saying why I want our cards remove….cannot abide by there rules”.

  2. This is a terrible story. I am in serious jail danger by way of unpaid library fines, looks like. PS: blog more. I like it. ❤ Becky

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