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Use a Library, Go to Jail: Teen Arrested for Overdue DVD

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 11, 2010 10:10 AM

Have any overdue library books lying around? Better get them back pronto, especially if you live in Littleton, Colorado. A Littleton teen, 19 year-old Aaron Henson, was driving home a few weeks ago when he was pulled over by a state trooper and arrested. Not for DUI, or even speeding, but for the overdue DVD of House of the Flying Daggers he forgot to return to the Littleton Library.

According to the Denver 7News report, Henson says it was all just a mistake. When moving last fall, the teenager accidentally packed up the DVD with his belongings and forgot about it. The library, anxious to recover their $30 investment, says they sent several notices, left messages and then sent a summons. According to Aaron Henson and his firefighter dad Allen Henson, they never received any of the notices or messages and the summons was sent back to the city marked "return to sender."

The moment when the situation really went downhill for Henson was his failure to show up for his court date, because according to him, he was never informed of it. At that time, an arrest warrant was issued. Imagine Henson the elder's surprise on receiving a call from his son saying he was in jail because he forgot to return an overdue DVD. "This is a clear violation of his right to due process," Mr. Henson told 7News.

Whether or not the city's actions rose to a violation of Henson Jr.'s Fourteenth Amendment rights is up for discussion, however the waste of city resources to recover a $30 movie seems fairly clear. In addition, the Henson's resources were tapped to the tune of $460; $200 to bail Aaron out of jail, $200 to bail his car out of the impound lot and a whopping $60 in court fees. They are now working to get the arrest expunged from Aaron's record.

The city, remorseful under the glare of publicity, has agreed to drop the charges and make a small change in policy. The mayor of Littleton, Doug Clark, issued a statement to 7NEWS saying the city is going to change its policy and, "We're not going to arrest people who don't return $30 DVDs." They may, however, still take away Aaron's library card.

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