HOT CHECKS

  Every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars are stolen from businesses and individuals in Orange County by thieves who use checks as their "weapon" of choice. Committing theft by issuing a worthless check usually gives the offender several weeks before the crime is detected.
As a result, the thief has a head start on the authorities and may be harder to catch.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office is committed to catching these thieves and has developed a program to recover the losses suffered by our area merchants. Some people think that every worthless check is automatically a criminal offense. This is not true. Merchants and individuals who accept checks for payment should be familiar with this area of Texas law so that they can make an intelligent decision as to whether to accept a check. Below you will find a list of the kind of checks that , as a general rule, can not be accepted by the District Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution:

1. Post Dated or "Stop Payment" checks

2. Old checks upon which the statute of limitations has run (Normally two years)

3. Checks where partial payment has been accepted

4. Two party checks

5. Checks presented outside of Orange County or for services performed outside Orange County

6. Checks presented in payment of debts, loans or charge accounts

7. Checks where no property or services were given in immediate exchange

8. Forged or altered checks. These are forgery cases that should be filed with the local law enforcement agency.

9. Checks received through the mail

10. Checks not presented to the bank within 30 days from the date written

11. Checks given in furtherance of any illegal activity

If you accept one of the types of checks listed above you might want to check with the District Attorney's Office to see if an exception exists whereby it can be accepted for prosecution. If not, you may still have certain remedies available to you under the Civil Laws of this State. You may want to consult with an attorney.

Procedures for filing a Hot Check

1. The check must be presented to the bank within 30 days of the date of issuance even if it is known that the check will not be honored.

2. Notice must be given to the check writer that the check was not honored as well as the reason why it was not honored. The notice must also include a demand for payment within ten business days of receipt of the notice letter.

3. The notice must be sent by registered or certified mail with proof of receipt requested.

4. If the check is not paid within 10 business days after the notice is received then it may be brought to the District Attorney's Office for filing. The District Attorney's Office must be provided with the following:

A. The original check

B. The original return receipt from the notice letter

C. A copy of the notice letter

D. Full name and other information of the person who accepted the check

E. Specific identification of the check writer such as their drivers license number

F. Specific information as to what the check was for

5. The Notice Letter- Below is a sample Notice Letter:

Mr. John Doe
123 Main St.
Orange, Texas 77630

Re: Returned "NSF" Check

Dear Mr. Doe,

Check number 7614 which you presented to me for groceries on September 10, 2001 in the amount of $86.51 has been returned by your bank marked "NSF".

This is a demand for payment in full for a check or order not paid because of a lack of funds or insufficient funds. If you fail to make payment in full within 10 days after the date of receipt of this notice, the failure to pay creates a presumption for committing an offense, and this matter may be referred for criminal prosecution.

Therefore, you have 10 business days from receipt of this letter to make full payment for this check in the form of cash, money order, or certified check or this matter will be referred to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Sincerely,

Joe Merchant

6. Conclusion

If you have any question about a potential "Hot Check" or if you need any assistance whatsoever, please contact the District Attorney's Office.

aaaaaaaaaaaaiii