The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Newsflash – writing NSF checks is a crime

Update – This type of story re-surfaces from time to time. The most recent I’ve noticed was on 9-18-2012, Walmart Debtor, Threatened With Jail Over $48 Bounced Check. The debt collection practices outlined in that story are outrageous, in my opinion, but the part I just do not believe is this statement, “Single mom Angela Yartz told the paper she was unaware that a $47.95 check she had written to Walmart had bounced.”

In my experience, banks always send notice of a returned check immediately and charge a returned check fee. So, if Angela was reading her mail or keeping track of her checking account, she would have known about the bounced check long before receiving a letter from the prosecutor.

Writing NSF (Not Sufficient Funds) checks is a crime in nearly every state, and it has been that way for almost forever.

This has to be one of those manufactured stories submitted by bored and uninspired reporters. CNN: Bounced-check collection deals draw fire.

If you read carefully,”Michelle O’Neil and her husband Michael . . . acknowledge they wrote two bad checks, totaling about $200 [in Florida] . . . The $14 check Michael O’Neil wrote . . . . ” means that the other bad check written by Michael was nearly $180 . . . “as they were moving from Florida to Michigan.”

Under Florida criminal statutes, writing a NSF check for more that $150 is a felony, unless you make good on it real quick.

Sheesh.  I thought everyone knew this.

They make you feel like a criminal,” Michael O’Neil told CNN.

Guess what.  That’s the way it is.

I don’t believe it is possible to write $200 in bad checks, not know about it, and be wholly ignorant of all subsequent quickly generated notices of it from both the merchant and the bank, followed later by the Prosecutor’s Office.  I don’t believe that Michelle & Michael O’Neil did not leave a forwarding address with the Post Office when they moved.

I believe that within a short period of time they were deluged with bad debt awareness notices.  I believe that by moving from Florida to Michigan the O’Neils thought they had outrun their obligations and could get away without paying.

A bad check has a negative economic multiplier effect 10 times greater than a good check.  Bank fees, processing fees, mailing fees, and soon the hourly costs of lawyer time and court time, culminating in jail time.  An itemized statement of all the expenses resulting from a bad check would make your jaw drop.

There is certainly no point in prosecuting and incarcerating Michael O’Neil for the felony he committed.  There’s just no good reason to do it.  Punishment would be counter productive, and revenge is going out of style.

Requiring him to pay the bill and to repair the damage he has done it quite alright, though.  I have no sympathy for boys with bad intent and the face of pretend innocence who whine on camera about getting off so easy.

Angela focused on the minimal amount involved with one of the two checks being fairly small, but ignored the $180 check.  Both she and Public Citizen misconstrued the issue as a debt-collection process when it was in fact a criminal diversion program.  CNN intentionally distorted the story or reported it in near total ignorance of the context.

Let me say it again.  The only other alternative was a criminal prosecution.

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Written by Tom Fox

03/02/2009 at 7:55 pm

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