In 1990, the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with the Cobb Solicitor General and Magistrate Court, implemented a program that provided an alternative to criminal prosecution of bad checks. The program has been very successful and served as a model to several other jurisdictions.
The program is a streamlined process intended to grant benefits to all concerned parties. The offender is given an opportunity to settle the case without the troubles concerning a criminal prosecution. The victim is able to recover their loss in an expedite manner without the ordeal of a trial. The government entities do not face the arduous task of a lengthy apprehension and trial for criminal charges. A successful execution allows Cobb County to forego the arrest, incarceration, any applicable bonding activities or expense of incarceration of the offender, scheduling a trial, and the conduction of a trial.
If you are the recipient of a possible bad check, you must first determine if the present conditions satisfy the requirements for prosecution.
Below are the considerations:
* The check instrument must be written for less than $500.00
* You must have accepted the instrument in good faith; that is you did not consent to hold the check for deposit for any number of days nor allow the offender to have post dated the check
* The offender must have issued the instrument to be drawn on an institution operating in this state
* The instrument must have been tendered for goods, services, or wages; that is, it cannot be in the form of a payment under any credit terms
* The instrument must be returned by the financial institution as “Insufficient Funds” or “No Account”
* You must act within ninety (90) days of the dishonor
* The transaction must have taken place in Cobb County, otherwise you will need to pursue court action in the county where the transaction occurred. You, as the receiver, must comply with state laws regarding the receipt of a bad check. This includes the notification to the offender with a reasonable period of time for settlement.
This is known as the Ten Day rule. Specifically, O.C.G.A. 16-9-20 is the prevailing law governing the “bad check.” The notice should be in the manner specified in sub-paragraph (a)(2)(B). A printable form is available on this site, click here for the form. The form cannot be submitted electronically. It must be sent via postal mail to the known addresses for the offender. The notice should be sent via registered or certified mail.
It is suggested that you retain a copy of the letter and “proof” of mailing. This will be required for the program or prosecution. Once the above have been founded, you may pursue legal intervention. You must appear in the Cobb County Magistrate Court to complete the necessary paperwork. The court is located at 32 Waddell Street, just off of Marietta Square, on the 3rd floor. The hours of operation are from 08:00 a.m. until 05:00 p.m. You will need to bring the returned instrument(s), a copy of the notice sent to the offender, and proof of mailing via registered or certified mail. Once at the Magistrate Court, you will complete some additional forms and render payment. Currently, the fee is $20.00.
You will also need to communicate the path you elect to pursue, citation or actual criminal warrant. The Magistrate Court personnel will review your application. Typically, the path of a citation will complete its course within ninety (90) days. The path of a criminal warrant may take in excess of one year before some resolution.
This document merely provides information about the bad check citation process. Once the appropriate documents are filed in Magistrate Court, the necessary paperwork will be forwarded to the sheriff’s office. The process will be recorded and reviewed for possible satisfaction through the citation program. If the offender has a criminal history of passing bad checks, it may be converted to a warrant. Otherwise, the sheriff’s office will issue an official letter indicating the issuance of a citation. The letter’s intent is to spur the offender into voluntary acceptance. The offender must appear in person to the Operations Division of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office. This section is located on the 1st floor of the Public Safety Building off Marietta Square.
The offender has fifteen (15) days after accepting the citation to satisfy the charges. The charges will include the face value of the bad check, court cost, and applicable fees. The failure to accept the citation or resolve the charges will result in the issuance of a warrant and subsequently the incarceration of the offender. If the offender satisfactorily completes the process, incarceration and criminal record is avoided and the victim receives full payment.
If the offender fails to comply with the terms of the citation program, criminal prosecution will subsequently follow. The term for this act is deposit account fraud. The penalty is based upon several factors and decided by the court authority.
Here are the guidelines:
* An instrument less than $100.00; a fine not to exceed $500.00 or imprisonment not to exceed 12 months, or both
* An instrument of $100.00 or more and less than $300.00; a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 or imprisonment not to exceed 12 months, or both
* An instrument of $300.00 or more and less than $500.00; it is considered a high and aggravated misdemeanor
* An instrument of $1,500.00 or more; it is considered a felony and punishable by imprisonment of more than 1 year not to exceed 5 years, or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both.
If the instrument is drawn on a financial institution of another state; it is considered a felony and punishable by imprisonment of more than 1 year not to exceed 5 years, or a fine up to $1,000.00, or both.
Criminal conviction results in a permanent entry in the offender’s criminal history. This can have significant impact on an individual’s life. Many companies and professions now require a criminal background check for employment.
The success rate of this program has been outstanding. The satisfaction through a citation has declined over the years, yet the program still proves most beneficial. Many of the recipients of a citation will resolve the matter in a recourse beneficial to themselves. Our success has been recognized by many other jurisdictions and Cobb has served as a model for their implementation.