3 Criminal charges that will only make sense to people who ever rented videocassettes

3 Criminal charges that will only make sense to people who ever rented videocassettes

Admitting that you once used an answering machine, rented a “home video” from Blockbuster, or unironically used slang words like “cool beans” and “far out” is a surefire way to reveal your true age. Not that there’s anything wrong with revealing your true age or being old, for that matter.

If you belong to a generation that did things like watch movies on VHS, these criminal charges would make a lot more sense to you than to someone born in 1997. In 1997, the VHS was phased out upon the introduction of DVDs, a video format that is on its way to complete obsolescence in 2021.

A crime involving J.Lo and an in-law that’s shockingly not about family law

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when you could get arrested in certain states for not returning a VHS tape. But such a time did exist, way before the streaming era dominated by Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other similar services.

In February 2014, Kayla Finley from South Carolina was charged for the crime of not returning a rented VHS copy of the movie Monster-in-Law, which starred Golden Raspberry winner Jennifer Lopez. This happened when Ms. Finley reported wrongdoing, whereupon the police looked up her criminal record and discovered her 14-year-old “crime”.

According to South Carolina laws, Ms. Finley’s “failure to return leased or rented property” was indeed a crime. The circumstances around her violation were exacerbated by the fact that the movie she rented and failed to return was supposedly terrible (according to the many critics who panned it). There was also no statute of limitations for this particular minor offense in the state where the crime was committed, so the case is still on the table even if the store had already closed shop by the time the police unearthed her violation.

It would be a fair presumption to say that today, Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, and VHS tapes have become triggers for Ms. Finley.

Public library shoots daggers at a borrower for not returning a DVD

Aaron Henson from Colorado also failed to return a home video (although in DVD format) from the Edwin A. Bemis Public Library. It was a DVD copy of House of Flying Daggers, a film deemed far more respectable than the J.Lo rom-com.

According to Mr. Henson, the DVD — which he rented in 2009 — got buried under piles of stuff while he was boxing household items for a move. The Bemis Public Library, however, was rather unforgiving of the crime. For the library, no crime is too small to go unpunished, and that includes failing to return a DVD movie about an ancient Chinese dynasty fighting against rebels.

House of Flying Daggers earned rave reviews, with some critics calling it “gorgeous”, “visually astonishing”, and “artistically satisfying.” It must have made Mr. Henson’s crime a lot easier to swallow, compared to having a criminal record involving a highly unrealistic movie about feuding with one’s in-laws.

Someone must have cast a spell on this poor woman

Speaking of unrealistic, Sabrina the Teenage Witch is about a teenage girl who practices witchcraft with her aunts and has a speaking black cat named Salem. Witchcraft practices are old but no less fascinating to modern audiences. This should explain why fictional worlds like Sabrina can become instrumental in a criminal charge, as in the case of one Oklahoman.

In 2021, Caron Scarborough Davis was charged with felony embezzlement of a rented property. She must have felt like someone had cast a spell on her. Apparently, Ms. Davis had a 21-year-old outstanding warrant for her arrest because she forgot to return a videocassette tape of Sabrina which she borrowed in 1999. She found out about her crime when she requested to have the name on her driver’s license changed to her married name.

The charging document stated that Ms. Davis “did willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously embezzle” the said Sabrina videocassette, which was then worth $58.59. It was unclear whether the Sabrina tape was the movie or one volume of the ‘90s TV show. The case’s prosecutors eventually dropped the charges “in the best interest of justice,” or, more truthfully, because it was way too silly a case to be spending any amount of time on.

If you have questions about family law — preferably not one that concerns whether an unreturned movie about in-laws merits litigation — consult Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams, Washington state attorneys.