How do I File
To file a theft by check or issuance of a bad check complaint with the District Attorney's Hot Check Task Force, you must: (1) send the statutory notice to the check writer; (2) fill out the appropriate sworn and notarized complaint form and related documents; and (3) submit the complaint form, along with documentary evidence in the form of copies of the notice you sent and postal documents showing the notice was sent. The following is a more detailed description of the above steps needed to file a complaint with us.
1.The Statutory Notice. The first thing you must do to file a theft by check or issuance of a bad check case is to send the appropriate demand letter to the check writer. The law requires that potential complainants in check fraud cases send a notice letter containing the exact, specific language spelled out in the statute. A proper notice letter includes the statutory demand language and gives the check writer ten days to pay the check. Be sure to keep a photocopy of the demand letter that you send. We will need that copy to prove any theft by check case that goes to trial. Once the ten days have elapsed, you may take the next step.
2.The Complaint Form and related documents. You must fill out a complaint form. A complaint form can include up to five checks from the same writer. At the end of each complaint form is an affidavit. Please read it carefully and fill in the blanks correctly, then have the form witnessed by a notary public. A notary public is available at the Hot Check Task Force office. You will be swearing to the statements you made by filling in the blanks.
3.Documentary Evidence. You will need to submit the legal check copy sent to you from your bank, along with any notes or information you have been able to gather regarding the transaction or the check writer. Please make sure that you decipher any trade jargon or stock numbers so that we can understand in common terms what was stolen. It may be some time before the defendant is arrested. The notes you submit to us can be used at that time to refresh your memory before you testify at the defendant's trial.
4.Submitting the case. The materials mentioned above should be brought to our office. Unless it is impractical for you to come in person, we prefer that you bring the materials in rather than mailing them. If you appear in person, we can rapidly review the documents for errors and avoid delays caused by our having to send the documents back to you for more information. We are located in room 112 of the Lubbock County Courthouse at 904 Broadway, Lubbock, TX. We are on the south end of the first floor of the courthouse. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 10536, Lubbock, TX, 79408. Please specify 'Attn: Hot Check Office' on the envelope. We receive cases Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM. We are open through lunch.
What Happens Once My Case Is Filed
Once a complaint is filed with this office, the check writer is placed in the computer system. Your forms will receive a cursory inspection at this time to spot glaring errors. If you took a driver's license or identification number, we will check to see who is the owner of that number according to official records. Once all preliminary documentation is collected, an employee of the Hot Check Task Force will look carefully at the documents you submitted and determine whether all elements of theft by check or issuance of a bad check can be met with the information on hand. If not, the employee will take steps to obtain the necessary documents or call you if further information from you is necessary. We send the check writer a notice if the check writer is being prosecuted by the Hot Check Task Force. If the check writer does not make satisfactory arrangements to repay the checks within fifteen days of sending this notice, the case is prepared for the filing of charges. When the case is ready to file, the Hot Check employee will organize the information and charging documents will be prepared. Most cases are prosecuted as issuance of a bad check in Justice of the Peace Court. If the merchandise or service stolen, however, exceeds $2500.00 or includes a firearm, cattle, horses, sheep or exotic animals, the case can be prepared as a felony. Once charging documents are prepared in a felony case the case will be presented to the Grand Jury. You will be notified if the Grand Jury wishes to speak with you. If the Grand Jury indicts the case arresting documents will issue.
How Do I Get My Money
Please understand that the purpose of the Hot Check Task Force is not collection but rather prosecution of individuals who commit acts prohibited by Texas law. While we are very interested in securing restitution for you, we may not be able to do that. We make no promises that we will get your money for you. In most cases, whether restitution is ordered by the court is determined by the judge and thus is beyond our control. Furthermore, many defendants have no money. They've spent or used what they stole from you and they don't have more money to pay you back. A judge may instead order such a defendant to serve time in jail in order to pay his/her debt to society. In that case, restitution will not be ordered. When we receive restitution and merchant fees on your checks we will mail you a check at the address on your complaint form. Please notify us if your address changes. Even if we do not get restitution for you, you may be able to file a suit in the civil courts in order to recover your losses. You should contact either the Justice of the Peace or a private attorney for advice on how to file a civil suit.
How Can I Minimize My Business's Losses To Bad Checks
Never accept a check without checking the ID of the person signing the check. Always be sure to compare the picture on the ID of the check writer to the person standing in front of you offering the check as payment. Never allow the check writer to tell you the ID number, always look at it yourself and record it carefully. If you file a complaint on the case with the District Attorney's Hot Check Task Force, you will be required to swear that the person who stood before you was the same person whose ID number you recorded.
Several banks in Lubbock County have reduced their losses to bad checks by asking check cashiers to provide a thumb print when cashing a check. The print is inkless, and the equipment is inexpensive and readily available from several vendors. You can contact your bank for the names of the companies providing such products or feel free to contact us for more information as to how the practice can limit your exposure to losses from certain types of bad checks.
High Risk Checks
TEMPORARY CHECKS: Checks that are not personalized are often a risk. They do not have the account owner's name printed on each check. How can you know that the person giving you the check owns the account on which the check is drawn?
LOW NUMBERED CHECKS: 9 out of 10 bad checks bear numbers smaller than 300.
CHECK WRITER PRESENTS AN ID OTHER THAN A DRIVER'S LICENSE: Beware of checks offered by check writers who present for identification passports, green cards, student IDs and military Ids.
NON-LOCAL CHECK WRITERS: Non-local check writers are much harder for us to identify and prosecute. Out-of-state bank records are almost impossible for us to get.
NON-RESIDENCE ADDRESS ON THE CHECK: A post office box printed on a check as an address rather than a residence has been shown to be a risk factor.
ILLEGIBLE SIGNATURE ON CHECK: A sloppy signature may be an attempt to prevent easy comparison with the signature on the ID.
CHECKS WRITTEN FOR AMOUNTS IN EXCESS OF THE COST OF GOODS PURCHASED: Cash is highly desirable commodity to steal.
MULTIPLE CHECKS FROM THE SAME ACCOUNT OR BY THE SAME CHECK WRITER IN THE SAME DAY: The check writer may be stealing as much as possible from you before you find out that the checks will not be honored.
CHECKS WRITTEN LATE IN THE DAY: Check writers know when banks close and they know that the merchant cannot verify funds in the account after the bank is closed.
COMPANY CHECKS: A check receiver cannot be sure that the person presenting the check is authorized to sign a check drawn on the account; the company gopher probably doesn't know the current balance on the account.
TWO-PARTY CHECKS: It is usually impossible for us to establish which of the parties had intent to deceive.
PRE-SIGNED CHECKS: You cannot swear the signer signed the check and nobody can prove the signer knew the amount for which the check would be written. You are safer if you avoid the checks listed above altogether.