Site Search
County of Sonoma California
Office of the District Attorney

You are here:

Bad Check Restitution Program

The Sonoma County District Attorney Bad Check Restitution Program helps organizations and individuals collect on bad checks they have received. Merchants lose approximately $8 billion a year in the United States to worthless checks. Consumers share in these losses through higher prices and all local taxpayers bear the additional cost of law enforcement efforts and prosecution of bad check cases in Sonoma County.

Working in conjunction with the merchants of Sonoma County, the District Attorney’s Office has created an innovative and dynamic program to track down bad check writers and to recover, in full, the losses to their victims. A bad check writer who qualifies for the Bad Check Restitution Program is temporarily “diverted” from criminal prosecution until the check is paid in full and the check writer complete an eight-hour intervention class. The intervention class, paid entirely by the check writer, addresses both remedial accounting practices and, also, the underlying behavioral issues that commonly cause the writing of worthless checks. If restitution is not paid and/or the intervention class is not completed, the bad check writer is then referred back to the District Attorney’s Office for possible criminal prosecution. The criminal punishment for writing a bad check(s), in addition to paying full restitution and fines not in excess of $10,000, ranges from up to one year in local jail (misdemeanor) or up to three years in state prison (felony).

The Bad Check Restitution Program forms a partnership between the recipient of the worthless check, the police, and the District Attorney’s Office to relieve some of the burden and costs that are associated with worthless checks in our community. This innovative approach provides an effective avenue to thwart the continued writing of worthless checks while obtaining restitution to the victim, all at no cost to the victim or Sonoma County taxpayers.

  • Bad check reports (PDF: 498 kB) are easy to file and follow-up action is prompt
  • Upon recovery, 100 percent of the face value of the check is returned to the victim
  • There is no minimum dollar restriction
  • Bad check offenders must complete an eight-hour educational class at their own expense
  • The program operates at no cost to the County or the taxpayers

How the Merchant Can Protect Themselves:

  1. Institute a check acceptance policy. A clearly posted check acceptance policy for your employees and customers can go a long way toward reducing your losses.
  2. Always insist on proper identification prior to accepting a check. Write all indentifying information on the FRONT of the check. Bank stamps often cover up this required information if it is listed on the back of the check. Have the person who accepted the check, initial the front of the check also.
  3. Do not accept post dated checks. Accept only checks written with the present date. Post dated checks are civil matters and are not accepted into the Sonoma County District Attorney Bad Check Restitution Program. Trust your instincts! If something does not seem right, ask questions or ask for another form of payment. You are not obligated to accept a check.
  4. Trust your instincts! If something does not seem right, ask questions or ask for another form of payment. You are not legally obligated to accept a check.
  5. Be aware. Does the check have a low number or no printed number? About 90% of bad checks drawn are on new accounts. Does the word amount match the number amount? Has the name of the payee been changed? Does the handwriting on the check and the signature match?

What to Do If You Receive a Worthless Check:

Document at least one attempt to make personal contact with, and to collect from, the check writer. Allow the check writer a minimum of 10 business days to respond and remit payment in full. If this initial attempt is unsuccessful, send a certified return receipt courtesy notice advising of the returned check. The check writer then has an additional ten days to respond to your second notification and remit payment. If you do not hear from the check writer or receive payment in full within 10 days, contact the Bad Check Restitution Program at (888) 892-1376 to request a bad check crime report or download it here (PDF: 498 kB). When you receive the crime report from the program, fill it out and attach originals of all bad checks and both notification documents. The program staff can assist you with any questions you have about the process. Retain photocopies of the materials for your records, and mail the completed crime report form and its attachments to:

Sonoma County District Attorney
Bad Check Restitution Program
PO Box 8549
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
(888) 892-1376 – Merchant Hotline
(888) 692-1469 – Check Writer Hotline

If your complaint has been accepted by the Bad Check Restitution Program and you have not received a restitution payment within 60 days, contact the District Attorney Bad Check Restitution program immediately.

Eligibility Requirements:

Any person or business who receives a bad check is eligible to participate in the program provided the following prerequisites are met:

  1. The worthless check was received in Sonoma County and was deposited in a Sonoma County bank in exchange for goods or services.
  2. At the time of acceptance, the check was presumed honorable by the victim at the time of acceptance. There is no minimum number of checks received (one check is sufficient) or dollar amount restrictions.
  3. Two requests for payment were sent to the check writer.
  4. The check has been submitted to the Bad Check Restitution Program within 120 days from the date on the check.
  5. Proof that when check was accepted, the recipient of the bad check demanded and memorialized on the front of the check the photographic identification (driver’s license, military identification, or state identification card) information from the check writer.

Ineligible Bad Checks:

  1. The worthless check was post-dated.
  2. The check recipient knew at the time of the transaction that there were insufficient funds in the account to cover the entire amount of the check.
  3. The check is an out-of-state, two-party, rent, government or payroll check.
  4. The check writer cannot be identified by the check recipient.
  5. The check is incomplete, such as no amount, date, or signature.
  6. The check was not initially processed by a Sonoma County bank.
  7. The check involves an extension of credit or payment on an already outstanding account.

Once the program receives your complaint form and supporting materials, they will be evaluated to determine whether the bad check is eligible to be handled by the program. Checks determined to be ineligible for the program may still be pursued by you via the small claims court process or by a private collection agency. If it is determined that the check is eligible, the program will contact the check writer and afford him or her the opportunity to avoid criminal prosecution by paying full restitution in addition to attending a mandatory eight hour intervention class. If the program is unsuccessful in obtaining restitution or the check writer does not complete the intervention class, the check(s) and materials will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for possible criminal prosecution.

Some content on this page is saved in an alternative format. To view these files, download the following free software.