Receiving a bounced check is not the most pleasant experience, but the Yolo County District Attorney Check Prosecution Program says it is picking up the slack.
The Check Prosecution Program recovered over $18,587.72 for Yolo County merchants and residents during March, district attorney Jeff Reisig announced Apr. 7.
This is an increase in the total amount of money recovered during the same time last year, while the number of fraudulent checks has actually decreased from 2009.
In March 2009, 148 checks with a $23,640.46 total were turned in to the Check Program and $13,578.90 was collected for the victims, assistant chief deputy district attorney Jonathan Raven said.
In March of this year there were 38 checks with a $31,723.24 total turned into the Check Program.
“Much of the money was paid to the victims by check writers before criminal proceedings were initiated,” Reisig said in a press release. “Once criminal complaints are filed and arrest warrants are issued, the court supervises the payments of restitution.”
Lawyers in town are not noticing any direct causation between trying economic times and higher bad check totals.
Davis lawyer Harry Roth works with both those receiving and giving bad checks. Roth said he does not see an increase in his caseload of people with bad checks. He also does not see a connection with being in financial trouble causing people to write bad checks.
“Bankruptcy and bad checks are separate issues,” Roth said. “I’ve seen clients in less financial trouble than others having problems with bad checks, and those with bigger issues not issuing them. Also, bankruptcy discharges debt, but does not end the crime of bad checks. Clients will still face prosecution.”
Robert Bishop, director of operations for Check Connection, a company that helps clients recover money from bad checks, said businesses are accepting fewer checks, and people are using more debit cards.
People are more frequently using electronic forms of payment. Recently, a higher percentage of checks that are used are fraudulent compared to in the past, Bishop said.
“Checks will still be around for a while,” Bishop said. “People and businesses just need to be cautious when receiving checks because counterfeit checks are becoming a big problem. Most counterfeit checks come from the same check paper, and it’s a lot easier to prevent the problem if businesses notice what this type of paper looks like in advance.”
Bad checks carry serious consequences if the charges are carried out. Any check written for over $200 that is returned for insufficient funds can result in a felony charge.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, California Civil Code section 1719 allows the receiver of a bad check to recover three times the amount of the check, up to $1,500, in civil court if sufficient notice is mailed or delivered to the person who wrote the check. The damages are in addition to collecting the value of the check, and they could include court and mailing costs. A cause of action under this law may be brought in small claims court, if the claim does not exceed $5,000 or in any other court of jurisdiction depending on the transaction amount.
Businesses or persons who have received non-sufficient funds (NSF) or closed account checks in Yolo County and have been unable to get cooperation from the check writers are asked to contact the DA Check Program. While stolen and forged checks must be reported to local law enforcement agencies, NSF and closed account checks can be submitted to the District Attorney Check Program for investigation.
When the DA’s office receives a complaint from a victim, it sends letters to the check writer for payment. If the writer does not pay, the office will order their bank records and possibly proceed with criminal action.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.