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Mother Of Four May Go To Jail For Losing Library Videos

| by Michael Allen

Sarrah Pitts, a 35-year-old mother of four in Chillicothe, Texas, may face jail due to some lost videos that she checked out of a library in Victoria, Texas, about four years ago.

"I've always heard of people going to jail for library fines, and I never knew anyone till now," Pitts told the Victoria Advocate.

Pitts checked out "One Piece," an anime series, for her children that was due back in the library on Sept. 7, 2013.

Pitts was originally hit with a library fee of $21.75, but now she owes $784.98 and has a warrant for failure to return library property.

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Pitts, who lived in Victoria from 2011 to 2013, did not receive the overdue notices because she moved to Chillicothe to help her brother.

In December 2016, Pitts applied for loan, but was told she needed a new driver's license. At the DMV, Pitts was informed how the unreturned videos had ruined her life: A suspended license since 2013, a failure to appear warrant in a Victoria County court and the large fine.

"I cried. I can't afford this," Pitts recalled. "I've done what I'm supposed to do, and I'm trying my best to raise my kids."

Her husband told her to check with a lawyer, but that option is not financially possible.

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"I work 40 hours a week at a convenience store; I can't afford a lawyer," Pitts stated. "I have four kids, my husband's disabled with heart problems."

Pitts says she has set up a GoFundMe page for people to donate through, but a search did not bring evidence of a page in her name.

"I wish they would understand if I would have known about any of it, I would have done my best to appear in court or took care of the situation before it came to this," Pitts added.

Dayna Williams-Capone, director of the Victoria Public Library, said that people are given a copy of library policies, which are also online.

"Circulation gives a copy when people sign up, so they know exactly what they are signing up for," Williams-Capone told the Victoria Advocate.

Library borrowers get sent four overdue notices, and are charged a 10 cent per day late fee.

"This gives them enough time to contact the library," Williams-Capone said.

When people don't pay their fines, the library issue moves to the municipal court, which Williams-Capone said "has their own system." She added, "I have no knowledge of [it]."

Sherrie Norred, the Victoria municipal court clerk, said that people are charged with violating a city ordinance, which is a $500 fine.

Pitts owes more because of her court costs, failure to appear fine, library restitution, driver's license hold and fees from a collection agency.

"We try everything we can do before to find the person before it's sent to municipal court," Norred insisted.

"When people move, they don't think of the library," Norred cautioned. "Please keep an updated address with the library."

The Victoria Public Library website recommends using Library Elf, a free email tool that reminds you when your library materials are due to avoid large fees and possible jail time.

Sources: Victoria AdvocateVictoria Public Library / Photo credit: The Wolf Law Library/Flickr

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