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Sheriff's Corner: What to do about bad checks

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch

Although check writing is not nearly as common for purchasing goods or service as it used to be, our office still receives reports of checks being returned for non-sufficient funds.

We have recently been asked how our office deals with these crimes and what process a victim of a bad check should follow.

MN State Statute 609.535, Issuance of Dishonored Checks, addresses bad checks and states, "Whoever issues a check which, at the time of issuance, the issuer intends shall not be paid, is guilty of issuing a dishonored check and may be sentenced as provided in subdivision 2a. In addition, restitution may be ordered by the court." Subd. 5 states that "this section does not apply to a postdated check or to a check given for a past consideration, except a payroll check or a check issued to a fund for employee benefits."

If you are victim of a bad or dishonored check, you do have some options. You should report the information to our office to get a report started. The Cass County Sheriff's Office will need certain documents to start the process. The information will then be forwarded to the County Attorney's Office for a worthless check complaint. We will need a copy of the demand for payment of dishonored check letter you sent to the issuer of the check to create a record of what you mailed. An example is available in the "Worthless Check Packet" from our office.

All demand letters must include a copy of the statute dealing with dishonored checks and penalty notice; this information is detailed on the packet from our office. Your demand letter must be sent certified mail with a return receipt and the return receipt must be enclosed with the other necessary documents sent to our office. If you have any communications with the issuer of the dishonored check, please document that in writing and/or screenshots, print-outs, etc., so you will be able to properly testify if the matter goes to a trial.

An affidavit of service by certified mail must be filled out in its entirety, notarized and returned to our office with your other documents. It is also necessary to identify the issuer of the check and return the certification of identification filled out by whoever took the check. The original check(s) returned from the bank must also be included to attach to the complaint.

When we have received all necessary information from you, we can put together our case file for submittal to the County Attorney's Office for consideration of charges. We will need all of these pieces of information described to proceed with requesting charges.

Sometimes the issuer of the worthless check wishes to make good on the worthless check after the criminal complaint process has started. This is possible, but we will direct the payer to the County Attorney's Office as certain court costs may need to be paid as well. A court appearance by the defendant may also be required to clear the matter up.

By contacting our office and starting the process of reporting a dishonored or worthless check, we can help guide you in the direction of obtaining information provide by and outlined in our "Worthless Check Packet" to get a successful prosecution and outcome to your case. You are also able to proceed through other channels, including civilly collecting on worthless checks as an alternative to the criminal justice system. This format can be used on checks of any amount that qualify under the rules listed in the statute cited at the beginning.

We hope that you are not subject to a bad check but in the event that you are, we can provide information and assist you with the process of getting it settled.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: email at tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us; phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or by mail or in person at the Cass County Sheriff's Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box No. 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.

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