Library fines, part II

A US woman has been arrested and handcuffed for failing to pay fines for two overdue library books.

Heidi Dalibor, of Grafton, Wisconsin, is the first to admit that she ignored calls and letters from her local library.

She also admits that she ignored a notice to appear in municipal court or pay the fine, reports the News Graphic.

But the last thing she expected was a knock on her door by Grafton police.

Here is more.  Here is my previous post on library fines.  By the way, she paid the fine and kept the books.


It wouldn't have helped in this situation, but I think that for non-waitlisted books, a library should automatically forgive the first (say) week of a fine, but only if the book is brought back within that week. If the book book is brought back 8 days after the due date, the full 8-day fine would be due. This would save the library from having to tediously process small fines and would encourage the patron to get the book back in by a certain date.

Almost 50 years ago, at the request of a local public library, I obtained an arrest warrant for a person who had refused to return books. Alas, he was never found.

The first line is misleading - the woman was arrested for failing to appear in court, not for failing to pay the fine.

"Alas, he was never found."

Is there a statute of limitations on the books, or if he's found will they throw the book at him?

In many places, if one doesn't pay a library fine after a certain point a warrant will be issued. Usually this is a misdemeanor warrant and can only be acted on if the person is stopped for some other reason (a traffic stop, usually) and is what's known as a "day-service only" meaning it can only be acted on during day-light hours unless one is stopped for some other reason (the idea is that the police shouldn't go burst in to your home for something little.) It's modestly effective and not too unreasonable if there is a real problem w/ people not returning library books or not paying the fines. (For most libraries as well, once the fine reaches the replacement value of the book, you can keep the book.)


According to The Smoking Gun report, this woman actually failed to return the books, in addition to failing to pay the fine. While, in the absence of all of the facts, I might agree with you that the response was excessive, borrowing something and not returning it is a type of theft. Besides, as others have pointed out, she had failed to appear in court. So what really happened here?

1. Patron takes property from library and fails to return it at the agreed time.
2. Library makes repeated attempts to retrieve the property or be compensated for its value by contacting the patron.
3. After #2 fails, library asks the courts to intervene.
4. Patron brushes off the court.
5. Police arrest patron. There are no indications that they are abusive (unless you reckon the use of handcuffs at all as abusive), and they release her when she has paid the fines and replacement charges.

This does not seem like an unreasonable use of police power. They are protecting the library's property rights. I might disagree that it is necessary to get the courts and/or police involved in the theft of two lousy paperbacks, but it's not like she didn't have plenty of opportunity to fix the problem before it got to this point.

As for failing to return things to the video store, I take the same position, although I think most of them are unlikely to actually press charges unless the theft is really substantial.

I agree with other posters that arrest seems a little excessive for a late library book, but it's hardly a secret that the court system doesn't have a sense of humor about people who ignore a summons, so I really don't have any sympathy for Heidi.

For those who haven't seen it, you really should rent or borrow somebody's copy of the Seinfeld episode. The lecture in Jerry's apartment from Philip Baker Hall (as Lt Bookman, library cop and Joe Friday parody) is one of the funniest things I've ever seen on TV.


It isn't a violation of property rights. She didn't steal the books from the library. She simply broke an agreement about how soon she should return the books.

What is a violation of property rights is the state stealing money from people at gunpoint in order to pay cops, court costs, jail costs, etc., for a problem that can be solved easily using 100% non-coercive means. (simply require a deposit for an amount greater than the value of books you have out any any one time).

Video stores, book clubs, university libraries, even many public libraries etc., have solved this problem, without wasting the resources of the police or the courts. We don't have to speculate about how to solve the problem, the problem has already been solved. Many institution, businesses, and organizations, public and private, use the solution every single day, and it works! If some public libraries can't be bothered, then why should the courts and the police (and ultimately the taxpayer) be bothered?

What next, are the police going to taser or beat jaywalkers? Oh yeah, I forgot, that is already all too common!

$45 for 15 days. Three videotapes and a book, though they do not charge for books here. There is no excuse, since here you are allowed to extend via telephone. Nevertheless the librarian asked me what I intended to do about it. I said " I hope to plead my way out of it, of course." Unfortunately, she said, she wasn't allowed to erase fines, but she would remove $25 dollars from it, hurray!

Life in a small town has myriad benefits.

...simply require a deposit for an amount greater than the value of books you have out any any one time

How brilliant and simple. I hope that Hertz and Avis implement this idea the next time you want to rent a car.

More to the point, what gives you the right to penalize the young or poor but honest library users by tying up what could be a significant fraction of their weekly budget? Just to spare this goofy grifter the horror of having to flash a daft smirk for her mugshot (check out the link from The Smoking Gun).

If you borrow something and outright refuse to return it, at some point it becomes theft. That line had already been crossed well before she deliberately ignored the court summons. As others have already pointed out, that crowning stupidity was the real reason for her arrest.

She got what she deserved, full stop. If you want to complain about the petty intrusiveness of government, surely you can find some worthier cause to defend than this preposterous person.

Rex Rhino:

Next time you hand your car keys over to a valet parking attendent and your car isn't there when you get back, I suppose the answer you expect from the police and your insurance company is, "I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do. The attendent didn't steal your car. `She simply broke an agreement about how soon she should return the [car].'"

That way, you wouldn't be "stealing" resources from honest taxpayers in trying to recover your vehicle. And it's your bad you didn't demand a $15,000 deposit from the attendent before handing over the keys.

As far as Blockbuster is concerned, I believe you have to have a valid credit card when you sign up for membership and if you are late beyond a certain number of days, they charge your card for the retail price (plus maybe a "restocking fee" or "service fee") of the video. Nice solution but not everyone has a credit card.

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