DA sees success with bad check campaign

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Staff Writer

Citizens who have outstanding worthless checks have a few more days to clear themselves before their freedom is canceled.

Just over a week ago, District Attorney Mark Fuller of the 12th Judicial Circuit, along with other area district attorneys announced plans for a multi-county worthless check roundup. Thus far, many people have been taking care of their bad checks so they can avoid any time behind bars, Fuller said Wednesday morning.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

"We have been successful enough we have extended our business day by 30 minutes on both ends," Fuller said. "Word is getting around."

Those individuals who have not cleared their names have until the end of the business day on Friday to pay outstanding checks or make arrangements for payment. As of June 23, anyone who has not paid or made arrangements to pay, will be sought and put in jail.

The district attorney is urging individuals to go ahead and come in to make arrangements so they can avoid jail time.

"I hope we don’t have to arrest a single person," Fuller said. "Our purpose isn’t to embarrass anybody, throw them in jail or stomp on them in bad times."

Fuller wants to give these individuals the "benefit of doubt" and allow them to make arrangements to pay. However, there are those, he said, who purposely ignore warrants and he will not tolerate that kind of action.

Fuller said worthless checks are not only a problem to merchants, but are passed on to citizens through higher prices and greater inconveniences.

Large numbers of worthless checks once really hampered merchants because they were required to file independent collection suits against those who had written the bad checks. In 1984, that changed when the Alabama Legislature passed a Special Services Division Act, which allowed district attorneys and other law enforcement agencies to get involved in prosecuting those individuals passing worthless checks.

In Fuller’s district of Pike and Coffee Counties, over 6,000 worthless checks were turned over to the Worthless Check Unit, last year, with the total loss to merchants being more than $600,000 in restitution and bank charges incurred by those business that accepted the worthless checks.

Of those complaints turned over to the 12th Judicial Circuit last year, Fuller said his staff collected approximately 5,100 checks, resulting in restitution payments totaling $462,481.10 to the citizens and merchants in Pike and Coffee Counties.

During last year, more than 1,250 warrants were issued for arrests of worthless check defendants who failed to respond to notification to pay or make arrangements to pay.

Fuller estimated there are about 4,000 outstanding warrants his office is hoping to clear. Many of those have already been cleared, although he is waiting until after Friday to tally them.

In 2000, more than 14,000 bad check complaints were turned over to the district attorneys participating in the roundup. The counties involved are Pike, Houston, Henry, Dale, Geneva and Coffee, uniting more than 20 agencies for the largest combined effort of this kind in the Wiregrass.

Any worthless check defendant who has a check which is unpaid and for which arrangements have not already been made can contact the Pike County Worthless Check Unit at 566-8922.