‘Ridiculous’: Woman facing jail time for two overdue library books

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Woman in Michigan gets arrested, charged due to overdue library books
WATCH: A Michigan woman was served with an arrest warrant and is facing possible jail time after she was charged for failing to return rental property, in this case some overdue library books – Nov 5, 2019

Who hasn’t returned something late?

A Michigan woman says she thought she’d simply pay a fine for the two overdue library books that she had forgotten about — until she found out about the warrant for her arrest.

Now Melinda Sanders is waiting to find out if she’ll be spending time in jail for her tardiness, in an unusual criminal case playing out in Charlotte, Mich.

The mother of five was recently arrested and charged with failure to return rental property in connection with the two outstanding books, which she ultimately brought back earlier this year. The crime carries a maximum penalty of 93 days jail and a $500 fine.

READ MORE: Wilderness survival book borrowed in 1977 is finally returned to Vancouver Island library

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Sanders says the case against her is “ridiculous” and she hopes the court will throw it out, rather than trying to throw the book at her with a jail sentence.

“I really don’t think that going to jail over those few books is OK,” she told WILX in Charlotte, Mich. “I definitely didn’t want to steal their property.”

The two offending books were Night and Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein. Each book costs less than $20 at most stores.

Sanders says she borrowed the books in 2017 and completely forgot about them. She didn’t realize she had them until earlier this year, when the Charlotte Community Library refused to let her print something because of the outstanding loans.

She says she found the books on her son’s shelf at home, dropped them off at the library and expected to see a bill for her late fees.

“I assumed that they had sent it to collections, and that I would see it on my report,” she said. “I had no idea that criminal charges were going to be pressed.”

READ MORE: Book borrowed in 1956 is finally returned to New Brunswick library

Sanders says she didn’t hear anything more about the case until recently, when her boss ran a background check on her before giving her a promotion. The background check turned up an arrest warrant related to the books.

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Her boss told her about the warrant while she was driving.

“I had to pull over because I started laughing, and he was like ‘No, I’m serious,'” she said. “I was like, ‘There’s no way.'”

The Charlotte Community Library declined to comment on individual cases. However, it did say that it sends out late notices by mail at regular intervals, up to four months late.

Marlena Arras, the library’s director of financial services, told CNN that “there is a lot of information that [Sanders] is not providing.”

Sanders says she would not have received any written notices because she’s been moving around a lot. She recently left an abusive relationship and has spent time living at a women’s shelter, which has made it hard for her to receive mail.

“Your address is confidential,” she said. “I had to change my phone number. I had to change my entire life.”

READ MORE: Man faces jail time for allegedly throwing a cat at a police officer

The warrant process was initiated on Oct. 29, 2018, a spokesperson for the Eaton County Courthouse told CNN. The warrant itself is dated Nov. 13, 2018.

Sanders says she hopes the court will dismiss her case, because her job is riding on it. She can’t work until the case is settled, and she’s unsure if the promotion will still be there when it’s over.

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“There’s no reason why this needs to be happening,” she said. “They would’ve had a better chance of getting their money if they would’ve sent me to collections, because I would have known.”

She added: “It’s just ridiculous.”

Her next court date is scheduled for Nov. 7.

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