Rubber writers beware, days are numbered

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 4, 2001

The Worthless Check Unit of the District Attorney's Office for the Second Judicial Circuit is reworking their system, and preparing to bring those who write bad checks in to court.

&uot;We have many merchants who, on a regular basis, get stuck with bad checks,&uot; said Kelli Chambers, coordinator of the District Attorney's Worthless Check Unit. &uot;It actually amounts to a lot of money tied up in operating capital for a small business.&uot;

Chambers explained the process.

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&uot;After a merchant has received notice from the bank that a check has been refused for payment, most will try to contact the person who wrote the check,&uot; Chambers said. &uot;Once they have done this, if they have not heard back from the writer after a certain amount of time, they send a written notice to the address furnished.&uot;

Chambers said this notice conforms with state law and is sent via certified U.S. mail, return receipt requested.

&uot;The post office will try to deliver the letter three different times n after that, the signature card is returned to the merchant, indicating the document was either delivered, or undeliverable, with an explanation on the card,&uot; Chambers said. &uot;Whether the letter was delivered or not, once the signature card is returned, the writer of the check has 10 days to pay for the check, which includes the original amount of the check, plus any bank fees, plus delivery costs.&uot;

She said if the merchant does not get contacted and receive a settlement during this time, it gets referred to the D.A.'s Worthless Check Unit.

&uot;Once we receive the check and letter with signature card, we send out a letter notifying the check writer, and informing them to come to the office and pay us for the document within 10 days,&uot; Chambers said. &uot;And if we have not heard from them after that time period, they are sent a final notice' letter from us, giving them 10 days to comply, or an arrest warrant will be obtained to bring them in.&uot;

Chambers said once a warrant is issued by the court, the criminal system kicks in.

&uot;The warrant will be sent to the sheriff's department, and deputies will go and pick the person up n once it has gone this far, the subject will be charged with negotiating a worthless, non-negotiable instrument, which is a Class-A misdemeanor, under Title 13A of the Alabama Code of 1975,&uot; Chambers said. &uot;Once they are arrested, they will be taken to jail, where they will remain until they go through the bonding process in court.&uot;

Chambers said it is not the goal to put people into jail, but rather just to get the merchants their money back.

&uot;We need to stress the importance of the person complying with the merchant, before it gets to the warrants stage,&uot; she said. &uot;After all, the goal is to get them their money back, but the law provides for jail time if they won't comply.&uot;

Chambers said the item must be paid for in full, or it still goes through the procedures, as required by law.

&uot;We also need to emphasize that this money must be paid in cash or by money order n neither the merchant or our office can accept personal checks,&uot; Chambers said.