I own a retail store and have had two bad checks this year. One is for fifty something and the other is $89. What is your suggestion on recouping these? I have contacted both customers. One never responded and the other one said she would stop in to pay but never has. Thank you.
2 Answers from Attorneys
This is not a credit issue. Its more of a criminal issue. Writing a bad check is a crime, even though the amounts would make it a summary offense..
What I would do is send a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the address on the checks. Give the person no more than 30 days (you might want to see if your county allows a shorter time of 15 days) to pay up. You can collect service charges by your bank plus the amount of the check. If there is any interest, you could collect that too as per the statute.
Tell them to pay up and that only cash or a money order will be accepted. They need to pay by the due date (i.e., within 30 days). Tell them that if they do not pay, then you pursue further legal action.
If they do not pay, then go to your local magistrate and commence criminal charges. Once criminal charges are filed, restitution will be ordered as part of the criminal process and they will have to pay court costs. You might want to check with the Allegheny County district attorney's office. PA was planning to have a worthless check program and it is in some but not all counties. Here is the link and you can call for more information:
Below is PA's bad check law:
18 Pa.C.S.A. § 4105 - Bad checks
(a) Offense defined.--
(1) A person commits an offense if he issues or passes a check or similar sight order for the payment of money, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee.
(2) A person commits an offense if he, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee, issues or passes a check or similar sight order for the payment of money when the drawee is located within this Commonwealth. A violation of this paragraph shall occur without regard to whether the location of the issuance or passing of the check or similar sight order is within or outside of this Commonwealth. It shall be no defense to a violation of this section that some or all of the acts constituting the offense occurred outside of this Commonwealth.
(b) Presumptions.--For the purposes of this section as well as in any prosecution for theft committed by means of a bad check, the following shall apply:
(1) An issuer is presumed to know that the check or order (other than a post-dated check or order) would not be paid, if:
(i) payment was refused because the issuer had no such account with the drawee at the time the check or order was issued; or
(ii) payment was refused by the drawee for lack of funds, upon presentation within 30 days after issue, and the issuer failed to make good within ten days after receiving notice of that refusal.
Notice of refusal may be given to the issuer orally or in writing by any person. Proof that notice was sent by registered or certified mail, regardless of whether a receipt was requested or returned, to the address printed on the check or, if none, then to the issuer's last known address, shall raise a presumption that the notice was received.
(2) A check or order stamped "NSF" or "insufficient funds" shall raise a presumption that payment was refused by the drawee for lack of funds.
(3) A check or order stamped "account closed" or "no such account" or "counterfeit" shall raise a presumption that payment was refused by the drawee because the issuer had no such account with the drawee at the time the check or order was issued.
(1) An offense under this section is:
(i) a summary offense if the check or order is less than $200;
(ii) a misdemeanor of the third degree if the check or order is $200 or more but less than $500;
(iii) a misdemeanor of the second degree if the check or order is $500 or more but less than $1,000;
(iv) a misdemeanor of the first degree if the check or order is $1,000 or more but is less than $75,000; or
(v) a felony of the third degree if the check or order is $75,000 or more.
(2) When the offense is a third or subsequent offense within a five-year period, regardless of the amount of the check or order and regardless of the grading of the prior offenses, an offense under this section is a misdemeanor of the first degree unless the amount of the check or order involved in the third or subsequent offense is $75,000 or more, then the offense is a felony of the third degree.
(d) Venue.--An offense under subsection (a) may be deemed to have been committed at either the place where the defendant issues or passes the bad check or similar sight order for the payment of money or the place where the financial institution upon which the bad check or similar sight order for the payment of money was drawn is located.
(e) Costs.--Upon conviction under this section the sentence shall include an order for the issuer or passer to reimburse the payee or such other party as the circumstances may indicate for:
(1) The face amount of the check.
(2) Interest at the legal rate on the face amount of the check from the date of dishonor by the drawee.
(3) A service charge if written notice of the service charge was conspicuously displayed on the payee's premises when the check was issued. The service charge shall not exceed $50 unless the payee is charged fees in excess of $50 by financial institutions as a result of such bad check or similar sight order for the payment of money. If the payee is charged fees in excess of $50, then the service charge shall not exceed the actual amount of the fees.
Unfortunately, because the checks are so small, it is probably not worth suing them in small claims court. It would cost you about $65, but you would be entitled to recover these costs if you win. Even if you win, you would get a judgment, and then would have to pay more money to the sheriff or constable to go out and seize their property. Again, you would eventually get this money back, but you have to decide if it worth spending more money in light of the=r the relatively small amounts owed to you,
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