Lost library material results in $784 warrant

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Feb. 25, 2017 at 10:42 p.m.
Updated Feb. 26, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Sarrah Pitts

Sarrah Pitts   Contributed by Pitts for The Victoria Advocate

After checking out the anime series "One Piece" for her children about four years ago, Sarrah Pitts, 35, of Chillicothe, has the potential to face jail time.

The library material that was due Sept. 7, 2013, and began with a lost item fee of $21.75 has snowballed into a $784.98 warrant for failure to return library property.

"I've always heard of people going to jail for library fines, and I never knew anyone till now," Pitts, 35, said.

Pitts lived in Victoria from 2011 to 2013, but moved back to Chillicothe to assist her brother.

A week before Christmas, the mother of four decided to apply for a loan.

During the application, she was told she needed an updated driver license.

At the Department of Motor Vehicles, Pitts was told she had a failure to appear in court for Victoria County.

Pitts' had been driving with a suspended license since 2013.

In the moment she found out about the money she owed, she could not believe it.

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

Pitts' husband advised her to check with a lawyer.

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

If she does not pay the fine in time, she could face jail time.

Pitts created a GoFundMe page to seek aid in paying the fine, Pitts said.

"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," she said.

Excessive fines are not common for the Victoria Public Library, said Dayna Williams-Capone, director.

The policy is available on the library's website, she said.

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

Included in the policy is the 10 cent per day late charge and the sending of four overdue notices.

"This gives them enough time to contact the library," she said.

A fine maxes out at $7, Williams-Capone said.

After each notification period through phone and written notices, the next step is involving the municipal court because it is no longer a library issue, she said.

"The municipal court has their own system I have no knowledge of," she said.

A person then has a city ordinance violation if they do not return their books, said Sherrie Norred, the Victoria municipal court clerk.

Involving the municipal court is a last resort, she said.

A letter is sent to notify the person, which has to be approved by the prosecutor in order to present the case.

General penalty fines for ordinances are $500, unless otherwise stated, she said.

In Pitts' case, the fine is divided into a max set by the failure to appear, court costs, library restitution, a hold on her license and collection agency fees, she said. The phone number on file for Pitts was not valid.

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

People looking for further information can visit the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center at tmcec.com.

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


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