Michigan Couple Faces Three Months Of Jail Time For Failing To Return Dr. Seuss Book To Library

If you live in Michigan and have forgotten to return a library book, you might want to find it and return it to the library as soon as possible. Failing to do so could result in hefty fines and possibly jail time.

Cathy and Melvin Duren, of Tecumseh, Michigan, received a letter from their local library requesting that they pay late fees on The Rome Prophecy and a Dr. Seuss book. The letter stated that failure to pay the fines may result in a court appearance for the fines. Not wanting to go to court for something that seemed so trivial and inexpensive, Cathy and Melvin Duren searched their home for the books. However, they were only able to find The Rome Prophecy. The Dr. Seuss book, checked out for their son to read to their granddaughter, was nowhere to be found, according to Metro.

According to the New York Daily News, Cathy checked out the Dr. Seuss book in the summer of 2014 and her husband, Melvin, checked out The Rome Prophecy in 2015, keeping it for 8 months before returning it to the library. Melvin received a letter in December regarding the book he checked out and returned it to the library. However, when Cathy received a letter, she could not locate her book and was threatened with misdemeanor charges of theft.

The Duren’s offered to pay for the replacement cost of the Dr. Seuss book, which would have been under $20. However, the library already submitted the fines through the legal system and the cost increased exponentially. Late fees equaled $55, which Cathy paid via a money order to the Prosecutor’s office. However, the Lanawee County Economic Crimes Unit billed $210 for their part in the recoup of the funds. Unfortunately, the Duren’s did not have the money to pay the additional fine. As a result, the couple was taken to court and now face an additional fine of up to $5oo and up to 93 days in prison.

Cathy Duren is flabbergasted at the possibility for going to jail over a non-returned library book. The entire situation has frustrated her beyond comprehension, and she claims she will not return to the library again.

“I can’t image going to jail over it, but I certainly will fight these charges because I’m not guilty.”

In addition to the fines from the library and the potential fines if found guilty, Cathy and Marvin had to pay $100 to the courts after being served with arrest warrants so they would not be taken to jail.

According to the Tecumseh County Library, they report losses in excess of $10,000 every year because books are not returned. Burke Castleberry, the Lewanee County Prosecutor, is adamant that the process is not simply about a non-returned library book. Instead, it is about the loss of money to the taxpayers in the county and the excess that they are paying to replace the books.

“… not about a library book. It’s a program to recover taxpayer money.”

Throughout the country county funds are are tight. Fines issued for items like late library books are easy ways to supplement lost funds and prevent duplicate and unnecessary purchases. Some react with comments such as it is money that is not expected, so the fines should be easily forgiven. However, the fact is that institutions such as libraries do count on late fees as a supplemental source of income, and often have those fees worked into a budget, figuring in an average from prior years.

Cathy and Melvin Duren are just a sample of people that forget to return a book. However, it seems in this case, the library failed to send out regular announcements of the non-returned books, which could have solved the entire issue before it got so big.

[Image via Oleg Krugliak/Shutterstock]