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DA’s office set to collect bad checks

DAILY LEADER News Editor

The District Attorney’s Office should soon have an idea of howgood — or bad — the holiday season was for area merchants.

DA officials say the holidays, proportionally, are the busiesttimes for bad checks.

“The sheer volume of checks in December is so much greater thanit is at other times. It makes sense that the number of bad checksis greater than at any other time of the year,” said LaurieChassion, Lincoln County office coordinator for the DA’s bad checkunit.

Regardless of the time of year, District Attorney Danny Smithsaid bad checks continue to be a problem.

“Bad checks are at epidemic levels,” Smith said during a recentcommunity elected officials meeting.

By law, Chassion said merchants must give writers 15 days tocome in and make good on a bad check. Once that is done, when theDA’s office gets involved depends on the merchant’s patience.

“Once that 15 days are up, they can turn the checks over to usany time after that,” Chassion said.

Chassion, who used to operate a check-cashing service with herhusband before joining the DA’s office in August, said merchantstypically work with bad check writers before contacting lawenforcement.

“They make every effort to work with them so they don’t have topay that $70 once it comes through our office,” Chassion said.

After a bad check arrives at the DA’s office, the bad checkwriter must pay the value of the check plus $70. The $70 includes a$30 insufficient funds fee that goes to the merchant for histrouble and a $40 processing fee that stays with the DA’soffice.

Smith and Chassion indicated that the bad check business is morethan self-supporting. Smith estimated about 70 percent of theoffice budget is helped through bad check prosecution.

Chassion said any bad check written for over $100 constitutes afelony. Convictions on felony bad check carries a $500 fine and$246 in court costs while misdemeanors carry a $100 fine and $168in court costs.

When some people get a bad check notification letter, Chassionsaid they seem to not be concerned about it. By the time the checkreaches the DA’s office, it involves people who do not realize themagnitude of the situation.

“Once they receive notification of a bad check, they need totake care of it as soon as possible,” Chassion said. “Just becauseyou ignore the notification, it doesn’t mean the check is going togo away.”