Criminal Justice

Bounced a Check? Go to Jail.


The Dallas Observer published a feature this week on folks who inadvertently bounce a check, which isn't illegal, and find themselves faced with threats of prosecution.

From the Observer:

Julie Orr wrote a check for $91 at an Albertson's grocery store. A few days later, while reviewing her bank account, she noticed that the check had bounced. Orr headed back to Albertson's to make good on her payment. But she was told that the store had already placed her in collections….

A month later, Orr received a letter from the district attorney's office. It inexplicably accused her of intent to commit fraud, noting that she was now eligible for "up to one year in the county jail." The only way to avoid criminal charges: participate in the county's "voluntary" bad-check restitution program.

But the DA wanted more than Albertson's $91 back. Though California law restricts the penalty on bad checks to $25, the letter demanded $333.51, which included $175 for a "voluntary" financial-accountability class she'd have to take.

Orr called the 1-800 number in the letter, but, instead of the DA, she reached:

Corrective Solutions, a private company from San Clemente. According to its website, it handles bad-check cases for 140 district attorneys nationwide—jurisdictions that oversee 65 million people, from Colorado to Florida, Michigan to Washington.

…Instead of investigating bad-check complaints, prosecutors simply pass them along to Corrective Solutions. The company then uses official DA letterhead to threaten jail time if consumers don't pay up. Corrective Solutions also runs the "voluntary" financial-accountability classes, and prosecutors get a cut of the profits while barely lifting a finger.

Unfortunately, the entire system runs on a one-size-fits-all presumption of guilt. No one's bothering to investigate whether the check writer was working a scam or merely suffering from a momentary lapse of mathematics.

Read the whole thing here. One bone to pick: the Observer rightly excoriates the private companies involved, but then gives prosecutors a pass because DAs are, according to DAs, underfunded; they simply don't have the resources to investigate each case. This scam doesn't work, however, without the threat of government force. Prosecutors are renting that out, exposing thousands of innocent people to coercive threats.

Rather than being underfunded, DAs are overstretched. There would be much more room in the budget for prosecuting check fraud and other serious crimes if the government would stop focusing on victimless crimes.

NEXT: Iran: Attack on Syria an Attack on Iran

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  1. I wonder if Corrective Solutions is making any political donations?

    1. Lets just call them “Coersive Solutions” from now on, ok?

    2. Aha.

      So Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in 1978, barring collections agencies from threatening jail time and deceiving consumers… Yet Congress created a loophole in 2006, granting what amounts to immunity from deception charges for collection agencies working on behalf of law enforcement.

      Corrective Solutions paid handsomely for the bill. Between 2003 and 2006, the company spent more than $660,000 on lobbying. It also slathered donations on key senators like Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd, who would later leave office after accepting a sweetheart deal from a mortgage company.

      1. I’m sure that new (unnecessary) agency, The FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection will be all over this.

        Perhaps Sen. Heap Big Pile of Shit should have headed this after all.

  2. The Police and S.O.’s Get traffic cams and forfeiture scams, kinda leaving the D.A’s out in the cold…..Problem solved!

  3. So let me get this straight: writing a bad check is fraud, while sending someone a letter on official District Attorney letterhead threatening prosecution, when you are not the DA, is perfectly legal.

    1. You ask too many questions. If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. What are you hiding?

      /fuck you, thats why!

    2. A questioning servant is more dangerous thatn an ingnorant heretic.

    3. Because Fuck You, That’s Why.

  4. This is Dewey Cheathem & Howe but ‘legal.’

    1. I see what you did there.

  5. OT: Obama fired the CENTCOM Commander for urging administration to consider the consequences before going to war with Iran. And did it in a really shitty way.

    1. Iran Delenda Est.

    2. He kept saying, “And then what?”

      Well no shit they fired him. The fucker kept questioning probable results rather than admiring their beautiful intentions.

    3. “National Security Advisor Tom Donilon in particular was irked by Mattis’s insistence on being heard. I cringe when I hear about civilians shutting down strategic discussions. That is exactly what the Bush administration did in late 2002 when generals persisted in questioning whether it was wise to invade Iraq. That led to what some might call a fiasco.”

      So, Bush did it too, so it’s all ok.

  6. One bone to pick: the Observer rightly excoriates the private companies involved, but then gives prosecutors a pass because DAs are, according to DAs, underfunded; they simply don’t have the resources to investigate each case.

    Did you read the whole article? They rake the DAs over the coals for handing cases over without investigation, and note that the DAs get paid by CS for the opportunity to run this scam.

    1. These desperate criminals are being fleeced for your protection, Tulpa….a little gratitude is in order here. The system works! Why do you hate america?

    2. Before I hit the sack, I thought I would let you know I defended you since you claim nobody ever sticks up for you.

      I would suggest that you stop wearing that +2 Robe of Perpetual Faux Martyrdom and that may help you in your quest for something resembling relevancy.-)

      1. Yes, it has been noted on your chart. Though if I could have a choice of issues on which people would stand up for truth it wouldn’t be that one.

        1. Romney was the better candidate?

        2. It’s adorable how threatened you are by my opinions, Tulpa. Almost as adorable as you thinking your opinions are “truth.”

          How exhausting it must be for you to get up everyday and delude yourself into thinking you are the only rational person on this entire planet.

          1. However disgusting your opinions can sometimes be, it’s your intentional misstatement of matters of fact, particularly facts about me, that are responsible for my current opinion of you.

            1. Uh-huh. Sure.

      2. Before I hit the sack

        Alone or with Podruga? 🙂

      3. I’m going to have to second GM on this one, TV Tropes rocks. It’s absurd what sort of stuff gets brought into disagreements.

    3. What do you suppose the DAs’ response will be?

      “Qualified Immunity — you can’t pin that rap on us.”

  7. Isn’t impersonating a DA a felony in most states? Either Corrective Solutions is an agent of the DA (in which case the DA is resonsible for their actions) or they’re commiting a crime. Would be nice to see a DA put on the spot in course about which case it is.

    1. Apparently they’re doing it with the DA’s permission (in return for the DA getting a cut of their profits), which the 2006 federal law allows.

  8. JERRY: So Marcelino’s going to take down the check?

    KRAMER: Yeah, Well, it comes down if Little Jerry Seinfeld wins the cockfight.

    JERRY: Great! (realizing) What?

    KRAMER: Well, Marcelino, he has cockfights in the back of his store.

    JERRY: Ah ha…

    KRAMER: Yeah, so he says if Little Jerry Seinfeld wins, the check comes down.

    JERRY: Kramer, cockfighting is illegal.

    KRAMER: Only in The United States.

  9. OT: Banjos and I are going on our first “date” tonight since Baby Reason came along. We’re off in a bit to see Beethoven’s Violin Concerto followed by the Eroica Symphony (my favorite of his works).

    Also, it’s one year to the day that she came home with me!

    1. Erotica Symphony?

      1. No, I said the Eroica Symphony, you uncultured buffoon.

    2. Congratulations on your first post-birth date. Hope everything goes well.

      1. If you want to go on an after-birth date I hear there are some sculptors looking for a roommate.

    3. *barf*

      How does Banjos put up with such sentimental drivel? 😉

      Have fun.

      1. Better than heavy metal. Although I personally prefer Beethoven’s Seventh.

        1. Bach – Brandenburg Concertos FTW. Ole JS are the best, EVAR.

          1. Hear, hear.

  10. You all didn’t think that Debtor’s Prison wasn’t eventually going to make a roaring comeback in the Brave New World, did you? In America, prison is our business, and business is good. Totally ignoring financial obligations (or marital obligations, or public promises, etc.) is a privilege reserved for The Ruling Class. The peasants must be held to the strictest account.

  11. So the new quote rolling through Facebook is something to the effect of “people act like taking their gun is like not letting them marry the person they love”. And every liberal I know is posting this acting like is it clever or something.

    Seriously, WTF? There is a reason why I find conservatives annoying but fucking hate liberals. It is not that I disagree with liberals. It is that they are so boring, humorless and smug. They all think that is some sort of clever point. Even if you believe the liberal line on gay marriage, the answer is “well yeah they do both people are being deprived of a fundamental right”. What the hell is supposed to be so damned funny? And they are so fucking smug. They all comment to each other and like each other’s posts like it is just a clever and unbeatable point. Really? It is just pathetic.

    1. people act like taking their gun is like not letting them marry the person they love.

      Marriage is not a right (nor should it even exist). Self-defense is.

      1. What do you mean marriage should not exist? If people want to live that way, it absolutely should exist.

        1. I mean marriage as a state-sponsored arrangements complete with tax breaks and special rights. If they want to bring the state into it by forming legal contracts, fine. But it shouldn’t be part and parcel of being in a relationship with anyone.

          1. We have this conversation all of the time. First, being married fucks you on your taxes. There are tax breaks. You pay the state for being married. I do not know why otherwise smart people believe there are tax breaks to being married.

            Second, marriage is nothing but codified contract law. Instead of making everyone write out contracts, they just pass a set of laws called family law that says what marriage contracts are. That is it. That is all family law and government recognized marriage is, a codified set of contractual terms.

            Saying you don’t like government recognized marriage is like saying you don’t like government recognized mortgages or secured loans. Conceptually there is no difference.

            1. I was prepared to write something snarky, but…those are all good points that I have to concede on.

            2. We have this conversation all of the time. First, being married fucks you on your taxes

              It also hurts you in divorce.

              Second, marriage is nothing but codified contract law.

              Kind of. Depending on the state.

              In my state, it’s a contract that you don’t sign, and stipulates that either party can decide to end the contract at any time, and when they do, they walk away with half the winnings, regardless of where the half came from.

              That’s not a contract, it’s preordained financial rape, enforced by the state.

              In non-community property states, it’s a vaguely written contract which allows long protracted court battles to decide how things get divided after the fact.

              Welcome to it, gay folks.

              1. “In my state, it’s a contract that you don’t sign…”

                Really? You didn’t stand up before an official deputized by the state and multiple witnesses and express your consent to be married? You and your spouse didn’t sign a state document saying you were married?

                I’m betting that it’s a contract you didn’t read rather than one you didn’t sign.

                1. Really? You didn’t stand up before an official deputized by the state and multiple witnesses and express your consent to be married? You and your spouse didn’t sign a state document saying you were married?

                  The terms arent printed on the marriage certificate. The contract isnt signed.

                  If anything, the only contract agreed to is the oral contract via vows.

                  THAT should be enforced by the courts, not some fucking laws is some fucking book somewhere.

                  1. Laws aren’t public record?

                    1. And to amplify, it’s not that outlandish to have contractual provisions either understood (as in the idea that contracts to do illegal things are inherently void) or incorporated by reference (the government does this in virtually every contract it makes with its vendors).

                    2. All ninehundredgafuckingzillion of them.

            3. Second, marriage is nothing but codified contract law.

              No, marriage is not at all a type of contract.

              That is, unless you think contracts can bind uninterested parties.

      2. I would say that marriage, as a religo-social institution, most definitely is an example of the “pursuit of happiness” that is recognized as an inalienable right in the DoI.

        1. State recognition of anyone’s marriage is not a right.

          1. No it is not.

          2. That’s why I said, marriage, as a religo-social institution. The state shouldn’t be in the business of preventing two or more people from participating in said institution, anymore than it has the right to alter a certain church’s liturgy.

            1. I guess we’re just going to have to agree to agree.

              1. “This isn’t an argument, it’s just a contradiction”

        2. DoI is a rhetorical document that has no legal standing.

          1. The point went whizzing by your head, Tulpa. Or do you not understand the word “inalienable”?

            1. Just apologize for not voting for Romney. That’s what Tulpy really wants.

    2. Is that a Nick Gillespie quote?

    3. A logical arguement must be dismissed with absolute conviction.

    4. Who gives a shit about Facebook?

      1. Losers mainly.

      2. I just go there for the pictures.

  12. She wrote a check in line at the grocery store? She is the worst.

    1. No, the worst would be if she tried to use a WIC voucher to buy imitation cheese, artificial ham-flavored dry beans, “juice” with less than 20% actual juice AND wrote a check. Extra worse points for not knowing a word of English* except for “no” when the cashier says you can’t buy that shit with WIC.


      1. I know it’s racist, but I always avoid the lines with the black mamas in them. regardless of how short they are.

        1. I know it’s racist, but I always avoid the lines with the black mamas in them. regardless of how short they are

          Why would it matter how short the mamas are?

          1. ::golf clap::

          2. That’s how I read his comment, as well. LOL!!!!

            *Lucifer Our Lord

        2. I know its racist, but I always do self-scan when possible. That way I dont have to interact with anyone of any race.

          1. Call me an ageist, but I’ll choose a self-scan line with three young people with full carts of groceries over a self-scan line with one person over the age of sixty with only a single item (especially if that one item is a piece of produce).

          2. I have an inherent disgust for self-scan because it feels like providing free labor to the store. And any time savings can be quickly lost when the computer decides it doesn’t like you and flags an item as having improper weight, so that you have to wait for a human to come over and push a button (usually without checking what the computer was complaining about)

    2. Meh. If it happened in Texas it didn’t hold anyone up so as they’d notice. Checkout people in the Lone Star State have two speeds. Slow and oh my fucking god will y’all please giddyup.

      1. One of my local grocery stores checkout personnel seem to be in some sort of “workforce integration” program. They are either retards who are learning to cope in society, mental patients on some sort of work therapy, or parolees in halfway house/work release. Excruciating.

        1. Tell Brooks not to kill himself.


    3. but was it at a self-serv checkout?

    4. No shit. Not too long ago I was in an express lane behind some bitch with 73 (no exaggeration) items, who didn’t even bag her own shit but waited for the cashier to bag them after ringing everything up, and proceeded to write a check AFTER everything was in her cart. WTF is wrong with people?

    5. She wrote a check in line at the grocery store? She is the worst

      Probably started digging the checkbook out of her purse 20 minutes into the process, after all her groceries were bagged and the checker said, “$79.28, do you need any help out?”

      AFter spending four minutes and nearly dumping the entire contents of her oversized bag onto the counter, she finally locates the checkbook. Carefully folding back each carbon from the previous checks written since the book was started, she realizes she has no pen. A secondary search of the bowels of her purse commences to acquire a pen. Upon acquiring the pen, she removes the cap, begins to write, pauses, then looks at the checker, “What’s the date today?”

      Upon receiving the date, she begins to write, in her best penmanship, the date in the corner of the check. The pen, not placing any ink on the check, she turns the checkbook over and scribbles to get the ink flowing. After 30 seconds of this process, the ink begins to flow (presumably) and she turns the checkbook over, carefully re-folding back the carbons which she had folded ever so carefully before. Writing the date, then moving to the ‘payee’ line, she looks up at the checker and asks, “Albertsons Stores Incorporated?” (My sister actually used to do that– she has a hyphenated name).

      Once the check is mercifully completed, she begins (carefully) the tearing process which, of course, still results in the corner of the check being left within the book.

      1. You left out the part about carefully adding the amount into the register of the checkbook and balancing the account before attempting to tear off the check.

  13. This is why I’ve always been afraid to write checks. Even before the days of debit cards, I would always get cash out of the bank

    1. To be fair, it’s not hard to keep track of how much money you have in the bank.

      And the pout in the article about banks not posting outstanding deposits and withdrawals in a favorable order is fairly misplaced. You’re not supposed to write a check that your already-available funds can’t cover.

      1. I am not sure how you think you are being fair there.

    2. I use “loyalty cards” I found in the parking lot for tjhe advertised prices. All transactions are cash, always. Even so I still make them run a separate transaction for tobacco. I haven’t bought tobacco with a traceable transaction in 20+ years.

  14. Also, I’ve always hated Albertson’s

    1. Albertson’s is very bad. And destined for failure. They will not be a functioning company within three years. They already are in “shutdown mode”. Either Ralph’s buys them within 18 months, or Albertson’s just closes down altogether.

    2. In Texas, grocery stores begin and end with HEB. HEBs kick ass.

      1. Texas HEBs (no, that’s not anti-semitic) have nothing on Iowan Hy-Vees.

        1. Super-Duper FTW!

          1. Actually I find their stock very lacking. Only two Nuka Cola Quantums.

      2. HEB rules, unless it is a Mexican ghetto HEB. Publix has gone to shit in the past decade.

        1. Publix was already shit in Charleston back in 2005. I went there a few times and even back then, before I became obnoxiously discriminating in my food selection, it had the feel of a grocery flea market. I called it “the dirt mall,” after the flea market in Mallrats.

          1. Publix has been on a huge new building kick here in Florida but a few years ago a lot of their stores had that “past the sell by look” of older stores.

            And most of the building has been tearing down and starting from scratch rather than renovating, although they completely renovated the Albertsons stores they took over a few years back.

        2. HEB rules, unless it is a Mexican ghetto HEB

          And then you go to Fiesta. Asian supermarkets are great too. Ruthless competition on produce prices. You do get what you pay for, but I’m fine paying 1/5 to 1/10 (really) of the produce prices at Central Markup or Whole Paycheck.

        3. Publix is still good here, but we’re not far from corporate HQ–maybe that’s part of it.

          1. Yeah, here in Central Florida they seem to have the brightest, shiniest stores around. Due to the rebuilding I referred to above.

        4. Publix is still good here, but we’re not far from corporate HQ–maybe that’s part of it.

      3. Central Market (owned by HEB)is even better.

        The HEB near our old house (north part of Austin) was astonishing- three full aisles of Asian stuff, a produce selection that would embarrass Whole Paycheck, and Safeway-level prices.

        Damn, we miss HEB. What I never understood is that they had a near monopoly (the closest non-HEB was at least an hour away), yet they had good prices and selection absent significant competition.

    3. We are in “Hy-Vee” territory right now, but in our native land it’s this:…..=endscreen

  15. So Ontario will have a lesbian premier. Reason rejoice! She is also a rich leftist and I live in her riding. Huzzah!

    1. Wynne Wins, Ontario Loses.

    2. You mean Dalton McGinty wasn’t a lesbian?

      1. tough call.

      2. Well he certainly Norman Batesed Ontario.

      3. THIS is why I come to H&R!

    3. PROGRESS!

    4. Canada has 6 female premiers now, covering like 85% of the population.

      1. Wonder how many of them will last next election.

        1. Christie Clark (BC) and Pauline Marois (QC) will probably not make it.

          1. I hope Wynne will be on that list but considering 2011 and Hudak I’m not so sure.

            1. nobody’s going to vote against a lesbian.
              that’s like voting for Hitler

              1. You should write for the Toronto Star.

            2. I thought everything in Canada was Wheat board this and wheat board that…

    5. So Ontario will have a lesbian premier. Reason rejoice! She is also a rich leftist and I live in her riding. Huzzah!

      So? Turn her.

    6. On my first reading I saw this as “Ontario will have a lesbian partner.

      I don’t think this needs further commentary on my part except to say that I was scratching my head for a while.

    7. So in addition to an article and comments about poor people who still use checks we’re now talking about Canada? WTF.

    1. OK. Just so I understand:

      Wireless mouse bluetooth to usb converter, usb to ps/2 mouse port converter, ps/2 mouse port to com port converter, com port to parallel port converter…

      Is that what I am looking at?

      1. I believe that is correct.

  16. You know I’m seriously thinking about running against her. Wonder how the Ontario Libertarian Party (all five of them) are doing.

    1. You’ll do well if you can get the CBC to give you any attention, unlike the way they were absolutely desperate for the Greens to win a seat at the last federal election.

    2. I bet their high and watching the Leafs lose again right now.

      1. “they’re”

      2. Did you really want the team that plays in the Most Overrated Arena On Earth (TM) to win?

    3. I will gladly drum up votes in rural Middlesex county for you.

  17. hah!

    Portlandia: “We need to get ahead of the banned-wagon”

  18. Any of y’all see this video of Biden moving goalposts?

    1. Tell me about how the Jets beat the Penguins?

      1. I will not.

        Never happened.

      2. Who started, Sanchez or Tebow?

        1. Umm, I think it was your filthy slut of a mother that started.

          1. My mother is not filthy!

  19. So, what, then, is a reasonable penalty for “paying” for groceries with a worthless piece of paper? What if the store posted a list of the costs a customer would incur by paying with worthless paper?

    1. If the store is charging, then $0, becaue EVIL CORPORATIONS!!!!! and all that.

      If it’s the state doing the charging, then they get to shoot your dog, and you’re lucky if that’s all, because fuck you that’s why.

    2. What does paying in cash have to do with this story?

  20. Well, when it boils right down to it, it is STEALING therefore, should be a criminal case.

    1. Sentient anon-bot raises an interesting point.

      When I was a kid I went into the Rite-Aid to get some batteries and absent-mindedly walked out of the store without paying. I didn’t even stop for the alarm at the door. It wasn’t until I was nearly at the car that I realized what was happening (I noticed the money was still in my hand) and hurried back into the store rather embarrassed to complete the transaction. There was no legal action.

      Compare this to the woman in the story who, when she realized the mistake, went to the store to make good on the payment. I think intent matters when judging theft cases.

      1. Technically you were guilty of theft. Intent is very hard to prove for something like this, so it can’t be allowed to become an issue.

        1. I can’t tell if that last sentence is sincere or sarcastic.

          1. I think it’s reasonable to presume that someone who takes merchandise out of a store without paying for it meant to do so. It should then be up to the\at person to prove there was no intent.

            1. Surely coming back to the store unsolicited, explaining the situation, and paying for the item(s) goes a certain distance toward proving there was no bad intent.

              1. It definitely could, depending on the timeframe. Or it could just mean they tried to float it, that failed, but they have the money now.

        2. This is incorrect. Criminal theft usually includes as an element the intent to deprive someone (temporarily or permanently, though I think it was once only intent to permanently deprive that counted) of what was taken.

          Though this has been diluted much over the years, mens rea is supposed to be part of any crime.

          1. I say this generally–I suppose statutory theft could have screwed this up, too.

            Also, the issue in these cases is that the act of taking something out of the store without paying will get you presumed intent, but it still has to be proven.

  21. As a former Deputy DA who reviewed hundreds of cases for filing charges and sent many to Corrective Solutions diversion, I hope I can help by pointing out a few things.

    First is that a prosecutor may not file a charge (or refer the case to diversion) without having a reasonable likelihood of proving the charge at trial. There is no excuse for failing to review a case.

    But beyond that review, prosecutors have no duty to independently “investigate” a case to be sure that charges are warranted, or in the check fraud context, to follow up with the parties to rule out an honest mistake. While that might be useful, it is not the role of a prosecutor in the pre-filing stage.

    Instead it is the police agency’s duty to investigate, write reports, and request prosecution. If a report justifies filing a charge, the prosecutor may file. If a report is incomplete, the prosecutor will decide whether to request further investigation, or to do nothing.

    It’s a shame the Dallas Observer article provided very few details about how these innocent check bouncers came to the DA’s attention to begin with, or how their cases were analyzed before being referred to Corrective Solutions. It often happens that a criminal charge is appropriate initially, but will be dismissed later after new facts come to light.

    While I agree that Corrective Solutions has gotten too big for its britches, I think it’s unfair to blame DA’s offices for wrongful prosecution- at least not without more facts.

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