Of the more than 300 cases being reviewed this week by the Lauderdale County Grand Jury, more than 70 of those are for felony bad checks. Although slightly down from previous terms, court officials say this continues to be a problem.
"They don't want it to get to us though. They want to pay the merchant first because when it gets to us the legislature has set up certain fees they have to pay," said Bilbo Mitchell, District Attorney.
Fees, which can add up! Any check for more than $100, which bounces and winds up in the District Attorney's office is considered a felony charge. A conviction on this can lead to hundreds of dollars in penalty fees or up to five years in prison.
Meanwhile, bounced checks for less than $100 are forwarded from the D.A.'s office to justice court, something that can also be costly.
"I've seen a person wind up paying a $110 for a $2 check," said Judge Robbie Robinson, Justice Court Judge.
However, it can get worse. Imagine that you write a check for $50, which bounces. Once in the local court system that check can cost you $77 in justice court fees, another court penalty for 85 percent of the value of the check, a $25 constable fee, a $40 fee for the district attorney's office, a $30 service charge, the full value of the check for the merchant, and any other possible banking service fees. That brings the grand total to $275, which is 550 percent higher than the original value of the check.
"It's not worth it!" Judge Robinson said.