Special Services Division
WORTHLESS CHECK UNIT
Each year in Etowah County, local merchants loose tens of thousands of dollars because of worthless checks. Since 1985, the Etowah County Worthless Check Unit has returned more than $10 million in restitution and fees to merchants and other victims. This is a free service to the citizens of Etowah County. Writing a worthless check drawn on non-sufficient funds or closed accounts is a crime. This form of theft is a major contributor to retail bankruptcies. Our Check enforcement Unit can help you stop this theft and protect your business.
CRITRERIA FOR FILING A COMPLAINT
In order for the Worthless Check Unit to accept a worthless check for prosecution, the following criteria MUST be met:
- The transaction must have occurred in Etowah County, Alabama.
- All worthless checks must be referred to the check unit within 9 months from the date of the check to insure proper processing if a warrant must be obtained. Warrants must be obtained within 12 months of the check date.
- All checks must be processed through the bank within 30 days of the date the check was written.
- All worthless checks MUST be stamped:*INSUFFICIENT FUNDS
*ACCOUNT CLOSED OR *REFER TO MAKER.
- The check writer MUST BE 18 years of age on or before the check date.
- The check must be written for a thing of value. No RENT or LOAN checks will be accepted.
- NO CHECKS will be accepted that are stamped: *STOP PAYMENT*UNCOLLECTED FUNDS OR *FRUADLUANT SIGNATURE.
- NO CHECKS will be accepted that are *HOLD CHECKS*POST DATED CHECKS *TWO PARTY CHECKS OR *PARTIAL PAYMENTS HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED.
- If the check is stamped INNSUFIENT FUNDS, Alabama Law requires you to send a Statuary DISHONORED CHECK NOTICE (PDF) to the person who signed the check. This letter must be mailed to the address printed on the check at time of issuance. The LETTER MUST BE SENT VIA CERTIFIED MAIL. A return RECEIPT REQUEST CARD (green signature card) must be purchased. The check writer must be given TEN (10) full days from the RECEIPT of your letter to make the bad check good. After the ten (10) are over, you may then refer to the Worthless Check Unit to file a Worthless Check Complaint. (PDF) However, if the Certified/Registered letter is returned to you by the Post Office for any reason (i.e. “unclaimed,” “attempted not known”, or “moved and left no forwarding order”) you may immediately refer to the Worthless Check Unit.
*If the check in question is stamped CLOSED ACCOUNT, you are NOT REQUIRED to send a statutory notice although you may do so if you wish.
Once you are prepared to file a worthless check complaint with our office, you will need to bring the following item(s) to the worthless check unit:
- The original check or certified copy of check as returned to you by your bank front and back.
- Then Certified Mail Return Receipt (“green card”) OR the undelivered Statutory Notice.(Do not open unclaimed mail) * Note that if you are turning over a Closed Account check, ONLY the check is required.
- Any copies of invoices or correspondence pertaining to the bad check should be included.
- A Worthless Check Complaint form (printable version available) filled out completely. You may choose to have these forms filled out prior to your visit to our office to expedite the process. The person who will be obtaining the warrant must be the same as who signed the complaint.
All the information requested on the Worthless Check Complaint must include the following:
- The NAME and ADDRESS of the person who took the bad check and the Business Name.
- The Driver’s License number of the check writer
- Date of birth
If a complaint is withdrawn for any reason a service fee of $30 will be charge to the complainant.
Once you have completed the process and Restitution was collected from the Subject a check from the District Attorney’s Office will be mailed to you at the beginning of the following month. However, if the check was not made good by the Subject, you will then be directed to the Warrant Magistrate on the 1st floor of Etowah County Judicial Building where a misdemeanor warrant will be sworn out for the Subject who is alleged to have passed/negotiated the check(s) in question. From that point on, the Worthless Check Unit will handle the matter and no further action is required of you unless your testimony is required at Court.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Who is eligible to utilize the services of the Worthless Check Unit?
Any person or business who has received a worthless check while transacting business in Etowah County may utilize the services of the Worthless Check Unit.
Is there a charge for the service?
There is no cost to the victim for filing a complaint with the Worthless Check Unit.
Can the Worthless check Unit accept a worthless check if I have taken a partial payment?
NO. If you have accepted a partial payment but have been unable to collect the balance due, you may be able to pursue the matter in civil or small claims court. Note that acceptance of a partial (or full) payment after a complaint has been filed will require you to withdraw the complaint and satisfy a $30 service fee to the Worthless Check Unit.
I agreed to hold a check before depositing it. Can I still file a complaint?
NO. By agreeing to hold a check for a period of time, you have implicitly stated your understanding and acceptance that the check was not good at the time it was presented. Such an arrangement between a check writer and a merchant precludes the filling of a criminal complaint. If this is the case, you may consider having the matter adjudicated in civil/small claims court.
What happens after I file a worthless check complaint?
After a complaint has been filed with the worthless Check Unit, we attempt to contact the check writer via mail. The check writer has two options for clearing up the matter. He or she may make restitution directly to the Worthless Check Unit. Restitution consists of the face value of the check, a victim service charge, and a State of Alabama District Attorney service charge. If a check writer is unable or unwilling to pay the restitution for his or her worthless check(s) to the Worthless Check Unit, that individual can opt to surrender on the warrant (s) and have the charge(s) adjudicated in District Court.
What happens to the warrant when a check writer pays the restitution to the Worthless Check Unit?
I f an individual remits full restitution to our office for a worthless check, the associated warrant is withdrawn, voided, and the matter concluded. The charge will not appear on the individual’s permanent record and no court appearance will be required.
Does the Worthless Check Unit accept partial payments from the check writer of a worthless check(s)?
NO. When restitution is paid for a given check, the entire balance must be cleared at that time.
How long does the Worthless Check Unit give a check writer to pay his or her worthless check?
When a complaint is filed and a warrant is issued, the check writer is given a ten (10) day grace period to remit full restitution to this office. If he or she is unable to remit the full balance by the end of that time, he or she MUST contact our office to discuss a restitution agreement. A Restitution Agreement is an arrangement between the Worthless Check Unit and the check writer allowing additional time to pay restitution for his or her case(s). While we do not take partial payments, we can extend further time beyond the initial ten day grace period. Each individual is evaluated on a case by case basis to determine if a restitution agreement will be offered and, if so, how much time will be allowed for the payment of each check involved.
How long will it take me to receive restitution after the check writer has paid the Worthless Check Unit?
When a worthless check case is cleared through the payment of the restitution to the WCU, the District Attorney’s Office will issue a check to the merchant at the beginning of the following month.
How can I find out the status of a complaint I have filed?
Feel free to call anytime to check the status of your case or if you have any questions.
What do I do if the check writer contacts me after I have filed a complaint?
If you are contacted by an individual after filling his/her worthless check with the WCU, refer that person to our office regarding the matter.
What happens to a worthless check writer who is served with his/her warrant(s)?
A check writer served with his or her warrant(s) is charged with the offense of Negotiating a Worthless Instrument (NWNI). Once that individual is booked into the Etowah County Jail and released, he or she will be assigned a date to appear in Etowah County District Court on the charges. The criminal offense of NWNI is Class A Misdemeanor in Alabama and is punishable by up to (1) one year imprisonment and two (2) years’ probation with the imposition of restitution, fines, fees, and court cost. If a check writer is convicted of the charge(s), the amount and time frame in which to pay it will be determined by the Court.