Bad Check Citation Program
Through the implementation of the Bad Check Citation Program, the Cobb County Magistrate Court, together with be Cobb County Sheriff s Office and the State Court Solicitor's Office, has streamlined the processing of misdemeanor bad check offenders. Introduced in 1990 as an alternative to the criminal warrant procedure when dealing with first time offender; this program has proven to be an overwhelming success and beneficial to all parties concerned.
It provides the business person with a more efficient, prompt method of securing payment for a bad check.
It gives the offender a manner by which to settle the indebtedness without acquiring a criminal record in the process.
It prevents hundreds of people each month from being arrested, processed, and bonded from the county jail and decreases the caseload of the State Court System. This results in substantial savings for the taxpayer.
While the use of citations (as opposed to criminal warrants) for the collection of bad checks is not original to Cobb County, our program is recognized as one of the most successful of its type in the nation. Several agencies throughout the country have sought out help in implementing similar programs.
Eight -five percent (85%) of the Bad Check Offenders contacted through the citation program voluntarily accept service and pay their debt in full. The other fifteen (15%) percent are converted to warrants. We encourage local merchants to utilize the Bad Check Citation Program for all collection items that meet the qualification criteria.
When a business accepts a check as payment for goods or services rendered, it is submitted to the bank for collection. Once a check has been returned by the bank twice for insufficient funds, it cannot be submitted again. It is then up to the merchant to send a ten day notice by certified mail to the maker of the check.
The ten day notice, written by the Georgia Legislature, must be sent certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, before criminal bad check prosecution is commenced in Cobb County. The letter should be sent immediately if the check is returned Account Closed or No Account. If you receive a check marked insufficient funds, the letter may be sent after the first time the check is returned or you may re-present the check and wait until after the second time the same check is returned. Our policy requires you to send a letter within ninety (90)days from the time you discovered the check was bad, or a warrant or citation may not be issued.
The purpose of the letter is to let the customer know that his/her check is not good. Accordingly, you need to send the letter to the person who signed the check; to the address that is listed on the check. If you know of another address for the customer, you should send it to both addresses, certified or registered mail. Make an actual copy of each letter you send to use as evidence in obtaining a warrant or citation. You are required to use the exact wording in the letter. This letter is accepted in all 159 counties in Georgia. Should the maker not respond to the Ten Day Notice, the merchant is then entitled to process this item through the judicial system for collection.
The option to issue a Bad Check Citation, as opposed to a warrant, depends upon:
* The amount of the insufficient check. Citations may be issued only when the check amount is less than $1,500.00.
* Whether or not the bad check offender has existing warrants and/or a criminal record, in which case he/she is not eligible for the Citation Program.
If the amount of the insufficient check is $1,500.00 or more, the merchant must present the collection item along with the Ten Day Notice letter to the Magistrate's Office in order to have a criminal warrant issued. A processing fee is charged regardless of whether the citation or the warrant is issued. This fee is reimbursed to the merchant by the offender upon collection of the debt.
The warrant process can involve a lengthy time period (usually a year or more) before the case is actually settled, and the merchant may or may not receive restitution. Additionally, the maker of the bad check is left with a permanent criminal record. Therefore, it is in the best interest of both the merchant and the maker of the bad check to utilize the Citation Program whenever possible.
If the amount of the insufficient check is $1,500.00 or less, the merchant can elect to have a Bad Check Citation issued instead of a warrant. The procedure and the cost are the same, however, the settlement process is greatly simplified. Collection time on a citation averages between 45-60 days and the offender will not have a criminal record if the debt is settled promptly.
When the citation method is used, the offender is notified of the Bad Check Citation through the mail via letter from the Cobb County Sheriff's Office Citation Section. The letter informs the offender that a citation was issued by the Magistrate Court of Cobb County charging them with the criminal offense of issuing a bad check. The offender is instruction to "report to the Cobb County Sheriff's Office" and "voluntarily accept service...and avoid having a permanent arrest record." The offender is warned in the letter that "failure to report and accept service could result in the issuance of a criminal warrant and subsequent arrest."
Once the offender contacts the Sheriff's Office, he/she has fifteen (15) days in which to satisfy the bad check and the processing costs associated with the bad check. If the offender fails to meet this requirement, the court date set at the time of acceptance of the citation will be invoked, and the offender will have to appear before the Magistrate Court to make payment. Payment may be made until 5:00PM on the court date. If payment is not made, the citation is converted to a misdemeanor arrest warrant.
Current fees can be found by selecting the Filing Fees link.