Bad checks may result in prosecution

October 11, 1995|By KRIS ANTONELLI | KRIS ANTONELLI,SUN STAFF

Don't write a bad check in Anne Arundel County.

The state's attorney's Bad Check Unit is up and running and ready to prosecute anyone who writes a bad check, no matter how small the amount.

The county will spend about $51,720 in salaries and benefits for a law clerk, secretary and office equipment. The program, which started Oct. 1, could generate about $200,000 a year from bad-check scofflaws and about $20,000 in service fees from their victims, said Frank Weathersbee, county state's attorney. The money will go into the county general fund.

For a fee, the state's attorney will post a letter informing bad-check writers that they will be charged criminally if they fail to pay. Those who ignore the warning will be charged in either Glen Burnie or Annapolis District Court, Mr. Weathersbee said.

The state's attorney started a similar program in 1978 after the General Assembly rewrote the state's theft statutes, allowing easier prosecution of bad-check cases, Mr. Weathersbee said.

The program was revamped in the mid-1980s and killed in 1992, a victim of a series of budget cuts instituted by former Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall.

Since 1992, the state's attorney has responded to complaints about bad checks involving small amounts with letters and threats to press criminal charges if the bad-check writer did not pay. In most cases, there was no follow-up and those holding bad checks had to file charges on their own.

Mr. Weathersbee said cautious business owners should take as much information from a customer's driver's license as possible and make sure the picture on the license matches the person writing the check. He also noted that on a Maryland driver's license, the letter at the beginning of the identification number matches the first letter of the person's last name.

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