Portales woman jailed for overdue library books

Lori Teel says she doesn't use the Portales Public Library, never has, and probably never will after what happened to her the night of June 12.

Teel, pregnant and the mother of four small children, was arrested, handcuffed and hauled away to jail in front of her kids for failing to pay library fines of $35.98.

"My children are still traumatized by it," Teel said.

Teel and her attorney Eric Dixon filed notice Tuesday that she intends to sue the city of Portales and Roosevelt County for false arrest and because of the way she was treated by courts and police.

Dixon said Teel was never given notice by the city before it sought charges against her. Court records show the charges against Teel were dismissed Monday at the request of City Attorney Stephen Doerr.

Teel says she didn't owe the money because she didn't check out the materials and doesn't even own a library card.

Dixon called the library's charges "bogus."

"I was very, very upset by it," Teel said Thursday morning. "I have never in my life been in jail … never have I ever been in trouble."

Teel was arrested by Roosevelt County Sheriff's deputies responding to a disturbance call involving her husband. While at the couple's home, deputies discovered the outstanding warrant against Lori Teel.

Lori Teel said she didn't know details about her husband's alleged crime and sheriff's deputies didn't respond to requests for information on the case.

Dixon called Lori Teel's arrest outrageous. He said in addition to money damages — Teel had to post $610 bond to get out of jail — Teel wants the city to stop using the criminal process to collect library fines.

"They need to give people a chance and listen to people and not treat people like animals," Teel said.

Teel was accused of failing to return "Twilight," a novel by Stephenie Meyer, and a DVD set, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," in 2010. Library records show the items were checked out by Teel.

Teel's arrest stems from a bench warrant issued by Municipal Judge Frederick Arnold and what Dixon described as a series of bureaucratic errors.

Court records show notice of the past due materials was mailed to a home Dixon said Teel hasn't lived in since she was a child. When she didn't appear in municipal court after a summons was mailed to the same address and returned marked "return to sender: not here," Arnold issued a bench warrant for failure to appear in court.

"The numerous errors and failure to provide Ms. Teel any proper notice violated her …d ue process rights…" Dixon wrote in his motion to dismiss the charges filed in Ninth Judicial District Court.

Dixon noted that after appealing the case from municipal to district court, he got a telephone call from a municipal court clerk wanting to set a trial date for July 9.

"Counsel," Dixon wrote in his motion, "is afraid that the Municipal Judge will attempt to hear the matter despite his loss of jurisdiction."

Attempts to reach Arnold for comment weren't successful.

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