Jul 272011

Bad check writers now face much higher fees if their checks are sent to the Navajo County Attorney’s Office for collection.

According to Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon, the Arizona Legislature authorized the following fee increases for his office: If the face amount of a bad check is up to $100, the fee will be $75, up from $50; checks written from $100.01 to $300 will have a fee of $100, up from $75. Check amounts from $300.01 to $1,000 will have a fee of $125, which is the same as the previous fee, but amounts higher than $1,000 will have a fee amount of 20 percent of the dollar amount, up from 15 percent.

Carlyon, who was instrumental in shepherding the fee increases through the legislature, said the new fees would enhance the ability of his office to help victims of bad checks collect what they are owed.

“Our bad check program is a free service to local businesses and individuals, and is entirely funded from these fees,” Carlyon said. “There is no cost to the victims or the taxpayers.”

Carlyon explained that bad check writers are given an opportunity to repay their victims before his office becomes involved. Once the check is referred to the county attorney, the cost to the bad check writer increases dramatically.

“A $44 bad check will become a $144 problem for the bad check writer if our office becomes involved,” Carlyon said. “Our $75 fee will be tacked onto the face amount of the check and the merchant’s returned-check fee, which is typically $25.”

The county attorney said his office’s bad check program is an alternative to criminal prosecution. Knowingly writing a bad check is a class 1 misdemeanor with a potential fine of up to $2,500 and jail time of up to six months. If the face amount of the check is $5,000 or more, the crime becomes a class six felony.

“Prosecution is always an option, but we reserve it for serious, uncooperative offenders,” Carlyon said. “The primary goal of the bad check program is to quickly and efficiently obtain full restitution for victims without burdening the criminal justice system.”

Carlyon said the bad check program has been in operation since 2000 and has recovered more than $1.4 million in restitution for victims. Anyone who has been the victim of a bad check or simply wishes to learn more may contact program director Gail DeCross at (928) 532-6033 or by e-mail at gail.decross@navajocountyaz.gov.