Kayla Michelle Finley is probably regretting her decision to rent a VHS tape of “Monster-in-Law” in 2005 -- not because DVDs or Blu-Ray would offer a better picture, but because that VHS rental cost her a night in jail.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the crime she was arrested for no longer exists in South Carolina. “Larceny -- failure to return a rented video” was taken off the books in 2010.
Finley’s bad luck began earlier this month when she went to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office to report a “domestic situation,” a sheriff's spokesman told the Los Angeles Times. In looking up her name, a deputy found an outstanding arrest warrant and took Finley into custody.
After a night in jail, Finley, 27, appeared before a judge and was released on $2,000 bond, according to online arrest records. If convicted, she faces up to 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.
The case has raised questions about why deputies decided to serve a more than 8-year-old arrest warrant for a minor offense.
The Sheriff’s Office said the value of the missing item was immaterial.
“In South Carolina, there is no acceptable level of approved theft in terms of the value of the stolen property,” it said in a statement to The Times. “An individual is no less guilty of larceny or stealing in South Carolina when proven guilty in a court of law that they have stolen an item worth $15 versus someone that steals property valued at thousands of dollars.”
Years-old cases “are tried every day and often times involve circumstances where the value of the property stolen is minimal,” the Sheriff’s Office said. A deputy doesn’t have the legal authority to ignore arrest warrants that are "valid on their face."
Under the now-defunct law, the video rental company had to give renters a 72-hour grace period. It then had to send a letter by certified mail and give the delinquent renter five days to respond. Only then could the company petition a judge to issue an arrest warrant.
Law enforcement didn’t have to get involved. At the time, a civilian or a business owner could make his own probable-cause declaration under oath. This “was commonplace for certain types of crimes during that time but is no longer the practice today in Pickens County,” the Sheriff's Office said.
P.J. Dalton of Dalton’s Video told a judge in October 2005 that Finley had failed to return a copy of “Monster-in-Law,” according to the arrest warrant. Harold Dalton Jr., the shop's registered contact at the time, declined to comment to The Times this week.
Finley, who has vowed to fight the case, couldn’t be reached for comment. In a since-deleted Facebook post, a “Kayla Finley” called the case “bogus” and said she never received any mailings about the overdue video.