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Crime Idle

South Carolina Woman Jailed After Failing To Return Movie Rented Nine Years Ago 467

Posted by samzenpus
from the beyond-the-late-fee dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Could you imagine being arrested for failing to return a movie you rented 9-years earlier? Well that's just what happened to one South Carolina woman. 'According to a Feb 13 arrest report, 27-year-old Kayla Finley rented Monster-in-Law in 2005 from now defunct video store Dalton video. The woman failed to return the video within the 72 hour rental limit, eventually leading up to her arrest 9 years later.'"
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South Carolina Woman Jailed After Failing To Return Movie Rented Nine Years Ago

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  • a movie you renter 9-years earlier?

    I think that statement is worthy of jail time as well.

    • To be fair, that could've just been a typing error since the r and d keys are close together. Course, if you're touch typing you shouldn't make that mistake so who knows?

  • Debt (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I thought you couldn't be arrested for owing debt? Wasn't that the point of credit scores and bankruptcy laws?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bws111 (1216812)

      This wasn't owing a debt, it was plain old theft.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This wasn't owing a debt, it was plain old theft.

        Keep in mind that it's hard to return a movie to a defunct video chain.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Jack9 (11421)

          > Keep in mind that it's hard to return a movie to a defunct video chain.

          Keep in mind she was arrested for an outstanding warrant. Returning the video would not have invalidated that. She was released on her own recognizance.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Zynder (2773551)
            Keep making excuses for jack-booted thuggery. You're part of the problem, not the solution. There should not have been a warrant issued to begin with!
            • Re:Debt (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17, 2014 @12:47AM (#46264461)

              So you take something. The owner asks for it back. You refuse. You stole it.

              The owner goes to a court to sue you to get it back, because the value is too low for a state prosecutor to care. You ignore the suit. The judge issues an arrest warrant at the request of the owner. The owner then politely sends you several certified letters impressing upon you your duty to resolve the issue. You ignore those letters, and in particular ignore an order of the court.

              Later, you're arrested and forced to appear in court.

              How is that thuggery? For one thing, the police aren't even involved, just the sheriff (an officer of the court). This is old school justice, where the person wronged has to do all the leg work in court to vidicate his rights. This is how things were done long before jack-booted police even existed.

              • Maybe you missed the part about how she was moving at the time, misplaced it and, because of the address change, never received any of the certified letters indicating the overdue return. It wasn't ignored or refused, she flat out didn't know.

                This was an honest mistake. The only thing dishonest here are the assholes ruining this poor woman's life over a FUCKING FIVE DOLLAR VIDEO RENTAL.

              • Re:Debt (Score:5, Insightful)

                by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Monday February 17, 2014 @11:44AM (#46267725) Journal

                This is bull. What's missing here is all sense of proportion. I'd love to have my former employers who owe me thousands of dollars in back pay thrown in jail. But it will never happen. Can bring a suit, and win it, but it doesn't matter, their companies are broke. Can't do anything more, like have a warrant issued. And there's this minor matter of the statue of limitations. Why wasn't this warrant voided after some appropriate time, like 7 years? Those former employers get off after only 4 years.

                It cost us, the taxpayers, far more money than that video tape was worth to process this warrant. Justice is not served when actions taken in the name of justice cause far more damage and expense than they save and deter. Zero tolerance has its place, and this isn't it. That video rental company should never have had the power to sic the police on anyone, not for that. That they could have such power is all the more reason to pirate. And the police need to be reminded who their real bosses are: the public.

              • What you are advocating is a return to Debtors' Prison. THAT is how things used to be done, AC. If the item is of such a low value that the prosecutor and police don't want to bother apprehending you, then that judge should not have issued the bench warrant at all. He should have told the property owner to do what businesses usually do- write it off on taxes as a loss and sell it to a debt collector. You really want Comcast or Verizon throwing you in jail for a charge you supposedly owe that usually al
          • Man, the USA is weird. All this talk about freedom, but you allow, nay demand, to live in a police state. The police in Canada would not arrest you for an un-returned video no matter how long you had it because it is an obvious civil matter to be resolved by small claims court. It isn't theft, it is breach of contract. In Canada if you rent something and keep it too long it isn't theft. Yes, you have broken the law, and the owner of the video can take you to court, but you can't go to jail unless you fail t
            • Re:Debt (Score:4, Informative)

              by Jack9 (11421) on Monday February 17, 2014 @11:35AM (#46267607)

              > The police in Canada would not arrest you for an un-returned video no matter how long you had it because it is an obvious civil matter to be resolved by small claims court

              IANAL but you can read about how that's not what happened.

              > Yes, you have broken the law, and the owner of the video can take you to court, but you can't go to jail unless you fail to return the video after losing your small claims case, and then you would be going to jail for contempt, not theft.

              There was no small claims case, because there was no appearance in a filed report of theft. Maybe it would have been thrown out for improper venue (meaning go to small claims), but more likely the fees associated with non-returning for 2 years passes the $500 (or whatever maximum for that area) that Small Claims can arbitrate. The warrant was likely for failure to appear and summary judgement of guilt. There isn't enough information here to say definitively, but deduction gives a couple possibilities. Warrants are issued to ensure other localities can arrest and hold regardless of charges (which may not even apply in the locality they are apprehended). That's part of the purpose of a warrant. It says "this person is wanted for a crime somewhere else, bring them back to us". Warrants sometimes describe what the crime was, but often do not because it can be complicated (failure to appear as a subpoena'd witness to testify about a civil case against a public defender being at a strip club instead of in court for a 3rd party contempt case, etc.)...Where the warrant applies is always present.

              You seem amusingly critical for not recognizing the basic flow of events or even understanding the subtleties of the US justice system. Nobody spent tax money to chase her down, she ended up in a police station and was nabbed for a warrant. Nothing in the video cassette case seemed improper.

  • by pcjunky (517872) <walterp@cyberstreet.com> on Sunday February 16, 2014 @09:24PM (#46263467) Homepage

    She will need to look up the laws in her state but here in Florida the statute of limitations is 5 years for a written contract. This should be easy to make go away.

    • by russotto (537200) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @09:39PM (#46263569) Journal

      No statute of limitations for most crimes in South Carolina. Failure to return rental property of a value of less than $2000 is a misdemeanor carrying up to a $1000 fine and/or 30 days in jail. Probably a few bonus months for failure to appear back in 2005. And she gets to forever in the future check that box "I have been convicted of a crime" and therefore no good jobs for her, and since it's an FDIC disqualifying crime (larceny), she's forever barred from having a job in the financial industry.

      And you know what most people will have to say about that? "Well, she should have thought of that before she stole that videotape".

      (IANAL, and certainly IANAL in South Carolina)

      • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @09:42PM (#46263575) Homepage Journal

        I wonder how many of the same people think that corporations getting off scott free after illegally foreclosing on homes is just okay dokey...

        • by Nexus7 (2919) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @10:04PM (#46263685)

          It is a feature of stories based on a dystopian future, and bykn some accounts (Shock Doctrine, I think?) of the present-day US, that the "common folk', you know, the ones with only 1 vote, are subject to increasing harsh punishments to stifle any hint of dissent, let alone revolution. Arresting for not returning DVDs is just a macabre progression from arresting for pot possession.

          I'm sure in South Carolina, this will be only an human-interest story, not a cause of alarm or anything more.

          Corporations get off with no punishment for far worse than illegally foreclosing homes! However your example is apt, since mortgages can be viewed as renting money (not technically however).

          We had a rich man's son get off with no jail time for driving into 4 pedestrians, the judge said he suffered from "affluenza"! Other shocking examples are plenty in the US.

        • If lenders are not able to foreclose on collateral pledged as a condition of receiving a loan then you will find a great deal less credit made available in the economy, especially to working class and poor people. If you've ever been in a situation where you couldn't get credit or good credit anyway then you know how much that hurts financially. So no, making foreclosures harder is not good for society, at least in the long run. A few lucky people are helped but secretly the payday lenders, rent to own and
          • by compro01 (777531) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @10:42PM (#46263937)

            In your rush to leap the defense of foreclosure, you missed the fact that none of what you're talking about has anything to do with what MickyTheIdiot was talking about, which is shit like being foreclosed on even if you've paid up [thinkprogress.org] or being foreclosed on, even though you don't have a mortgage [bloomberg.com].

          • by blue trane (110704) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @10:45PM (#46263961) Homepage Journal

            If lenders refuse to make markets, the government (or the Fed) should step in and make them. If private banks refuse to make mortgage loans, Fannie and Freddie should do it, because it's in the public interest, in the General Welfare. The Fed can loan them money at 0% so they can invest in T-bills at 3% and keep the loans rolling over forever.

            • +1 Accurate.
            • by tompaulco (629533)

              The Fed can loan them money at 0% so they can invest in T-bills at 3% and keep the loans rolling over forever.

              This is exactly the sort of crap that has to stop. I spent three years trying to refinance my higher interest loan because the banks would far rather invest the zero percent interest money they get from the government in T-bills. Of COURSE they would. I would love to have that deal, too. But the reason the government lends at zero percent is so that that money can be loaned to people and businesses. The government should look at any bank that has invested in T-Bills and raise their lending rate for that ba

            • When banks can borrow from the Fed at zero or close to zero percent interest and loan the money back to the government at between 3 and 4 percent interest on a 30 year T-Bill, which is basically guaranteed to be repaid, why should they make you a 30 year mortgage loan for basically the same interest but higher risk that you won't pay them back? The government, through the policies of the Federal Reserve, which have been holding down long term interest rates and flooding the banking system with liquidity, cr
      • by tompaulco (629533) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @10:26PM (#46263817) Homepage Journal

        Probably a few bonus months for failure to appear back in 2005

        Well, if she was properly served, then she definitely should have appeared. If she was not properly served, than the case should be thrown out.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        IANAL but a decent lawyer should be able to make it go away....unless she admitted to it to whoever arrested her. I assume they would need a paper trail and witness testimony to convict. Nine years and a defunct business might make that difficult.

        I agree that the police had to follow through on the outstanding warrant, but if she hasn't admitted it, and refuses to plead guilty, the prosecutor will be the one wasting money if he/she takes it any further.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Ralph Wiggam (22354)

      Unfortunately for her, the arrest warrant was issued in 2005 and I don't think those expire. It's stupid that this originated with a tape rental, and I'm shocked that the video store pressed charges, but those tapes were worth over $100 and theft is theft.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @09:26PM (#46263477)
    I returned a tape, that old bowling movie KingPins to a local place through the drop box. But they mailed me ordering me to pay for it. Needless to say I didn't pay it. Imagine if someone got you arrested for failure to do inventory on their part.

    Also makes me wonder about those people who check out a library book and don't return it for like 50 years. What kind of late fees would they be looking at :P
  • I sort of thought they get rid of most debt based arrests.

    • Re: Debtors Prison? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @09:35PM (#46263533) Journal

      I sort of thought they get rid of most debt based arrests.

      In theory, the US abolished debtors' prisons in the early 1830s(details vary by state, as usual).

      In in practice [economist.com], well, you can always spin a new set of legalisms to achieve the same effect, can you not?

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      Sure, if you go to court and get the debt discharged. If you just don't bother returning borrowed property it is just theft.

      • Except you already agreed to a plan that legally spells out what happens when you fail to return it, charges and fines.
        Assuming that this is not the only rental story in the history of rental stores that does not have overdue-charges, she did not legally steal the movie, she just owed them thousands of dollars in late fees and interest.

        • by laird (2705)

          At some point the issue of what's reasonable has to kick in. If she lost a VHS tape 9 years ago, and the store went under since then, (1) there's no victim, and (2) the replacement cost for the videotape is probably only a few dollars (check on eBay).

          I'm just amazed that the magistrate that has to hear all such issues before they can book people didn't throw it out, since the issue is so flimsy. Perhaps they had to wait until the morning?

          Now, if a magistrate signed off on throwing her in jail for not return

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            the replacement cost for the videotape is probably only a few dollars (check on eBay).

            Well, that doesn't really make sense as a basis for damages, otherwise if somebody steals a $50k car and doesn't get caught for 15 years they can argue it is only worth $500. She didn't steal a 9-year-old video today, she stole it 9 years ago. She isn't paying restitution 9 years ago either.

            It probably makes sense to fine her $100-200 or something like that. If she had paid $20 or something reasonable back when she lost the tape and this were an argument over whether the $50 late charge in the contract w

          • by mysidia (191772)

            At some point the issue of what's reasonable has to kick in. If she lost a VHS tape 9 years ago, and the store went under since then, (1) there's no victim, and (2) the replacement cost for the videotape is probably only a few dollars

            (1)Depends on how much revenue they lost due to that tape being tied up. The victims are the shareholders --- probably they can still be repaid. They need to be repaid in 2005 dollars adjusted for inflation, however; a ~20% increase on top reparations for what the value

          • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @10:46PM (#46263965) Homepage

            1) The victim is whoever absorbed the assets of the company at its closing. They've lost the value of the tape.

            2) Being a licensed rental copy, the replacement cost is in the range of a hundred dollars or more.

            The basic issue is that the law doesn't get to be ignored just because the media can spin the story to sound trivial. If someone robbed a store of $100 worth of merchandise, had an arrest warrant issued at the time, then spent nine years on the run, would it still be unreasonable for them to be arrested today? At the most basic level, the purpose of law is to provide a consistent accounting of what behavior society does or does not approve of. If a magistrate chose to neglect an old outstanding arrest warrant, then there'd be something very wrong.

          • by In hydraulis (1318473) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @10:48PM (#46263975)

            If she lost a VHS tape 9 years ago, and the store went under since then, (1) there's no victim

            Are you seriously not seeing the cause-effect relationship here?

          • At some point the issue of what's reasonable has to kick in. If she lost a VHS tape 9 years ago, and the store went under since then, (1) there's no victim, and (2) the replacement cost for the videotape is probably only a few dollars (check on eBay).

            While I broadly agree that reasonableness has to be taken into consideration, I don't think that it's fair to say that there's no victim here simply because the store went under. I'm pretty certain that the store owner (and his partners, if any) for one will disagree with you- he was angry enough to file a police report. Also, applying your logic, all murders are victimless crimes since their victims are dead, which statement I think many people will find hard to agree with.

      • Sure, if you go to court and get the debt discharged. If you just don't bother returning borrowed property it is just theft.

        Actually, if you don't return borrowed, rented, or leased property, it is called conversion, not theft. The difference is that in the first case, you initially had the property legally in your possession, while in the case of theft, there is never legal possession. Conversion can occur without criminal intent as in, "I didn't return the library book, because I lost it." As with most things, laws vary widely by state. Since this is South Carolina, the woman will probably do hard time especially if she is

  • by jayveekay (735967) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @09:30PM (#46263515)

    Arresting someone for theft under $10 ("Monster-In-Law" on DVD retails for about $5) seems to be a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars. A more efficient punishment would be to seize wages/tax refunds/etc. in the amount of the theft + some additional punitive amount.

    • by PRMan (959735) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @09:43PM (#46263595)
      Yeah, fine her $100 and call it a day. I mean, after all, she already watched Monster-in-Law. Hasn't she suffered enough?
    • by mjwx (966435)

      Arresting someone for theft under $10 ("Monster-In-Law" on DVD retails for about $5) seems to be a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars. A more efficient punishment would be to seize wages/tax refunds/etc. in the amount of the theft + some additional punitive amount.

      Jail is excessive but you need a disincentive to prevent people from breaking rental contracts (even though it was only a crappy DVD, it's still a rental contract), normally its just some additional amount as you've said.

      In Australia they just send the debt to collectors and it goes on your credit history as a default that can make it hard to get credit or loans in the future.

      • by laird (2705) <lairdp AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday February 16, 2014 @10:21PM (#46263803) Journal

        Normally that's what happens in the US as well. Every place I've ever signed up for video rentals required me to give them a credit card and authorize them to charge me replacement costs plus a penalty specified in the contract. So typically she'd have been charged for the tape a few months after failing to return it. The idea of going to jail for losing a videotape rental is insane. I can't believe the video rental store would waste the money filing the charges over a single tape. Perhaps that sort of decision-making helped put them under?

        • It could have been the debt collectors - if they can't collect the debt, they'll file charges I think.

          That would be my guess at what happened - the video store went to a debt collector, who eventually went to the police. Each step is probably standard practice, and the amount or initial reason for the debt was likely irrelevant at the end; it was probably policy to send all noncollectable debts past a certain age to the police.

    • by GrahamCox (741991)
      Well if it's economic efficiency that's important here, then the most sensible thing to do it just forget it.

      I know we all live in a police state these days, but this is ridiculous. There has to be more to this.
    • A woman in Japan forgot 5 DVDs for 10 years ; the fee for 1 DVD / 1 day is 200 Yen. She had to pay 5 x 200 x 365 x 10 yen ... ( $36,000 )
  • by dacut (243842) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @09:38PM (#46263557)
    How are we going to arrest people on frivolous charges when movies are streamed? I suppose we could make it a felony to fail to rewind a stream when you're done viewing it...
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @09:52PM (#46263639)
  • Blockbuster ended late fees and just auto billed you the full cost.

  • by PPH (736903)

    Rewind.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The cops have no discretion when a warrant is valid... particularly with a valid in-state warrant. When the warrant was issued, no one knew it would take 9 years for the woman to be tagged with it. Indeed, it would have been a greater waste of taxpayer resources to try to track her down over a $10 video and execute the warrant 9 years ago personally instead of by mail. Many petit larceny cases are treated like this.

  • Cost for a single VHS cassette: these days, about $5

    Cost in man hours for the paperwork, arresting, jailing, court costs and so on... into the thousands, maybe even tens of thousands.

    Seriously, what petulant, power-lording fuckwit sought this action?

    • by Nyder (754090)

      Cost for a single VHS cassette: these days, about $5

      Cost in man hours for the paperwork, arresting, jailing, court costs and so on... into the thousands, maybe even tens of thousands.

      Seriously, what petulant, power-lording fuckwit sought this action?

      If you knew anything about how law worked, she was jailed because a bench warrant was issued due to her lack of response on returning the video. The Judges give the warrants and the police carry them out. So, they have no choice but to arrest her because of the warrant, even if the charges seem lacking. She could of avoided all of this back when and choose not to. Now the video rental cost her a night in jail.

  • She took my car to get groceries one day and got a ticket in the parking lot, mistakenly thought it was dismissed, she moved and never received any summons or notices that her license was revoked, went to drive on a military base late at night 6 months later to visit a friend, they ran her license and charged her with like 4 crimes for trying to enter a military based with a suspended license (2003, they treated her like a terrorist, she spent all night locked up with the MP's), it went to court, no mercy,
  • Sounds like she rented from the Gord.

    http://www.actsofgord.com/inde... [actsofgord.com]
  • by Nyder (754090) on Sunday February 16, 2014 @11:25PM (#46264151) Journal

    See, chances are the charges about "stealing" the video will be dropped, because the Video Store company will probably not show up for a court date against her. But that didn't change that she had a bench warrant issued for her back when the store was still around.

    What will happen is this: She will show up for the court date and the judge will dismiss the charges because of the age and that the video store is no longer around.

    Had she bothered to take care of it back in the day, she would of gotten a fine and no jail time. But since she didn't, and they apparently don't have an age limit on those type of warrants, she got served the warrant when they found out she had one. And the warrants mean you get arrested and put in jail until you can go before a judge. So for her that was spending a night in jail for a video.

  • by mcvos (645701) on Monday February 17, 2014 @08:01AM (#46265831)

    That reminds me. I still need to return a book to the library. Better get on it within the next 9 years.

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