Worthless Check Recovery Program
This office handles worthless checks
received in the jurisdiction of the 16th
Judicial Circuit ONLY, which is primarily Monroe County, Florida. Do
not contact us if this is not the correct jurisdiction. Their procedures may be
The Office of the State Attorney, 16th
Judicial Circuit, prosecutes Worthless Checks and offers a Recovery Program for
Worthless Check Offenders that can avoid resolution through the court system.
The advantage of this program for merchants is that it increases the speed and
rate of recovery.
The information given below answers many questions concerning worthless checks
and what is needed to prosecute these cases.
What is a Worthless Check?
Under Florida law, any check returned from a bank stamped with any of the
following is a Worthless Check:
- NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds)
- Insufficient Funds
- No Such Account
- Account Not Found
- Account Closed
- Closed Account
- NSF Unless Otherwise Indicated
Worthless Checks may be subject to prosecution under Florida's criminal
statutes. Checks returned "Refer to Maker" or "Uncollected
Funds" may require additional investigation before being charged
Checks stamped "Stop Payment" may, in certain circumstances, be the subject of
criminal charges, but you should be aware that Stop Payment Orders are not
generally criminal and may have to be resolved in a Small Claims Court civil
Checks returned with the stamp "Unauthorized Drawer's Signature" are
generally not suitable for prosecution as worthless checks because they are
probably forgeries committed by someone other than the owner of the checking
account. Forgery does not fall under the Worthless Check Recovery Program and
must be filed with the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the
check was uttered or forged.
Accepting a Check..........What to do and What NOT to do:
You are never under any obligation to accept a check from someone for payment
of goods or services. While checks are certainly a convenience, you may opt to
ask for cash or certified checks or money orders.
In order for the State Attorney's
Office to prosecute insufficient funds or account closed checks, it is
necessary that the identification of the individual issuing the check be made
by the taker of the check. Therefore, if you decide to accept checks, please
follow these guidelines:
- Be sure you can positively identify the person giving
you or your employee the check. You should ask for some type of picture
identification, either a driver license or ID card issued by a
governmental agency. Be wary of "ID Cards" that can be obtained
through the mail or at flea markets. Examine the ID carefully to make sure
that it has not been altered in any way and to make sure that the person
presenting the check is the person on the ID card.
- If you personally know the check-writer and can
identify that person, you need only put the driver license number, state
of issue, and date of birth on the face of the check and compare
signatures. However, if you do not know the check-writer personally and
cannot identify the check-writer at a later date, you should do the
- Compare the picture and signature on the driver
license to that of the check-writer, making sure that the individual
uttering the check is the individual on the driver license. If the check-writer
does not have a driver license, then you should ask for another type of
picture identification or military identification.
- Record the driver license or picture identification
number and the state in which it was issued on the face of the check.
- The following information is very helpful if you can obtain and save it should there be a problem in the future: Full Name, residence address, date of birth, sex, race, height, and
driver license number. Also obtain the home phone number, place of
employment and business phone from the individual. Enter all of the above
information on the face of the check, except that which is printed on the
face of the check.
- Initial the check to indicate that you received it.
- DO NOT accept checks that are post-dated (a check
bearing a date in the future, i.e., a check written on January 1, 2003
should not be dated January 2, 2003) or checks with no date on them at all
unless you are willing to take a chance, since post-dated checks cannot be
prosecuted by the State Attorney's Office, if they are dishonored.
- DO NOT agree to hold a check for ANY length of time. If
you do, you are acknowledging that you knew the check was bad when you
took it. Such checks cannot be prosecuted by the State Attorney's Office.
- DO NOT accept third-party checks, since the person who
wrote the check is not the person giving it to you, and you may be
accepting a forged or stolen check.
What Information Should be Taken on the Check?
Florida law specifies that you should ask for certain information about the
check writer. Generally most of this information is already printed on the
check. You or your employee should ask the writer if that information is
correct and current. If there are differences between the information on the
check and any ID that you asked for, you should ask for an explanation before
you accept the check.
You may also record this information on a check-cashing card application that
you keep on file, giving your customers a check-cashing card with a specific
number that you or your employees will write on the checks instead of all the
information listed below. It would still be a good idea, however, to ask for a
picture ID even with the check-cashing card; this will cut down on the
possibility of taking a forged or stolen check.
The following information about the check writer may be pre-printed or
written on the check:
- Driver's License Number (State)
- Home Address
- Home Telephone Number
- Date of Birth
What Should I Do When I Receive a Worthless Check?
- Send the required 15-day statutory notice letter to the
person who gave you the worthless check. This gives the person passing the
bad check adequate time from the receipt of your letter and notice to pay
you the face amount of the check, plus a service charge which should not
exceed the following amounts:
- Amount of Check $50.00 or
Less........................... Fee = $25.00 per Check
- Amount of Check $50.01 -
$300.00....................... Fee = $30.00 per Check
- Amount of Check $300.01 or More.......................
Fee = $40.00 per Check
Or an amount equal to 5% on the face Value of the Check, whichever is greater.
What is the advantage in sending a Registered or Certified Letter? (Recommended but not required)
confirms the statutorily allowed penalties and allows you to collect service charges which should
more than offset the cost of sending registered or certified mail.
strengthens our prosecution case if the defendant goes to trial because it
increases the presumption of guilt plus it gives us a physical piece of evidence
to support your testimony as to the transaction.
letter gives you immunity from civil liability under Florida Statute 832.07.
Liability insurance coverage to protect you from civil suits for false arrest,
malicious prosecution, or slander would cost you far more than costs of mailing
registered or certified notices.
- If the check is returned "NO ACCOUNT" or
"ACCOUNT CLOSED", you do not need to send a statutory notice
letter. It is however recommended that you file the procedure in either case
- Once you have either received the return receipt or the
unclaimed letter and have waited the required fifteen days from the date the letter was mailed, criminal prosecution may
original check(s) or bank copy of the original check and the original certified/registered mail receipt (green card) from the notice, or the returned
unopened envelope containing the notice.
Names of witnesses who know something about the check( included on affidavit)
The complaint affidavit fully completed and notarized.
Contracts, receipts or other supporting documents.
- Do not delay filing your complaint after the fifteen days
have passed or the certified letter has been returned. Promises made by
the maker are, for the most part, of no more value that the check itself.
- Do make sure that the check is stamped by the bank
indicating the reason it was dishonored. Without the stamp, prosecution is
I Ask to See a Credit Card?
You may ask to see a credit card as an indication of credit worthiness on the
part of the check writer, but you may not write down the credit card number or
expiration date, only the type of card and the check writer's name.
This does not prohibit you from requesting a credit card number and expiration
date in lieu of a deposit to secure payment in the event of default, loss,
damage or similar occurrence.
What are the Penalties for Passing a Worthless Check?
Worthless checks are either 1st-degree Misdemeanors or 3rd-degree Felonies
under Florida law. A 1st-degree Misdemeanor can mean up to one year in a County
Jail and a $1,000 fine, while a 3rd-degree Felony can mean up to five years in
a State Prison and a $5,000 fine. Sentences may also include probation, payment
of supervision costs(probationary fees),payment of restitution, merchant
fees(based on the value of the check), community service work, and court costs.
Most first offenders are allowed the take advantage of the Worthless Check Recovery Program through the State Attorney's Office. For more information, or
questions, contact the State Attorney's Office at (305)292-3400 and ask for the
Worthless Check Division.
happens if a Worthless Check Cannot be Prosecuted?
If, for some reason, a worthless check cannot be prosecuted by the State
Attorney's Office, you may wish to pursue the matter in a Small Claims Court
suit for breach of contract. You may wish to consult a private attorney before
pursuing such a matter, as there are filing fees involved that you will have to
pay to the Clerk of Court. However, the Court may award treble damages, meaning
three times the amount of the check, to you after a trial; this is not an
option available to the Court in criminal prosecution.