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Magistrate Court Warrant Division

Office Hours

All Bad Check Citations are processed through the Magistrate Court Warrant Office, which is open 24 hours a day.

However, Bad Check Applications and bad check dismissals are accepted between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. only.

If you have a large amount of checks, you may wish to call the Warrant Office at (770) 528-8900 to make an appointment.

Bad Checks

The definition of a criminal bad check as defined by the Official Code of Georgia (16-9-20):

(a) A person commits the offense of deposit account fraud when such person makes, draws, utters, executes, or delivers an instrument for the payment of money on any bank or other depository in exchange for a present consideration or wages, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee. For the purposes of this Code section, it is prima-facie evidence that the accused knew that the instrument would not be honored if:

(1) The accused had no account with the drawee at the time the instrument was made, drawn, uttered, or delivered;

(2) Payment was refused by the drawee for lack of funds upon presentation within 30 days after delivery and the accused or someone for him or her shall not have tendered the holder thereof the amount due thereon, together with a service charge, within ten days after receiving written notice that payment was refused upon such instrument.

Recognizing a Bad Check

Only some of the checks returned from the bank can be prosecuted in criminal court. The following is a guideline in making a determination of whether you should apply for a criminal warrant or citation.

  1. Was the check given for present consideration or wages? If not, you must sue in civil court. Present consideration generally means that services or goods are delivered at the same time that the check is received. It also includes rent, a debt of state taxes, a child support payments when there is a written court order. A payment on a credit account would not be present consideration.
  2. Did the person who accepted the check know the check was not good at the time it was given? If you know the check would not be honored when you accepted it, then you cannot prosecute the person who gave it to you. Examples of this would be when a customer asks that a check be held until a specific day or when you accept a postdated check. In both instances you have extended credit even if it is only for a few days. When you extend credit it it is no longer considered a criminal bad check offense.
  3. Was the check returned for the reasons of No Account (includes Account Closed) or Insufficient Funds? If the check was returned for any reason other than no account, insufficient funds, you probably do not have a check that can be prosecuted in criminal court. However, if the check is stamped "Refer to Maker" and "Cannot Locate" you should inquire with the bank to see if the account was closed or there was insufficient funds on the date the check was passed. If this was the case, you may be able to proceed with a criminal action. You should get the bank to verify this information by letter or by putting the information on the face of the check and having the bank official then initial it.

A stop payment cannot be a violation of the criminal bad check statute (except in the rarest of cases). Even though a bad check warrant would not be proper, a magistrate may determine that some of the other type of crime has occurred. Each case would be different and a decision could not be reached without hearing all the facts and circumstances surrounding the occurrence.

Bad Check Citation Program

About the Program

Through the implementation of the Bad Check Citation Program, the Cobb County Magistrate Court, together with be Cobb County Sheriff s Office and the State Court Solicitor's Office, has streamlined the processing of misdemeanor bad check offenders.

Introduced in 1990 as an alternative to the criminal warrant procedure when dealing with first time offender; this program has proven to be an overwhelming success and beneficial to all parties concerned.

It provides the business person with a more efficient, prompt method of securing payment for a bad check.

It gives the offender a manner by which to settle the indebtedness without acquiring a criminal record in the process.

It prevents hundreds of people each month from being arrested, processed, and bonded from the county jail and decreases the caseload of the State Court System. This results in substantial savings for the taxpayer.

Use of Citations

While the use of citations (as opposed to criminal warrants) for the collection of bad checks is not original to Cobb County, our program is recognized as one of the most successful of its type in the nation. Several agencies throughout the country have sought out help in implementing similar programs.

Eighty-five percent (85%) of the Bad Check Offenders contacted through the citation program voluntarily accept service and pay their debt in full. The other fifteen (15%) percent are converted to warrants. We encourage local merchants to utilize the Bad Check Citation Program for all collection items that meet the qualification criteria.

When a business accepts a check as payment for goods or services rendered, it is submitted to the bank for collection. Once a check has been returned by the bank twice for insufficient funds, it cannot be submitted again. It is then up to the merchant to send a ten day notice by certified mail to the maker of the check.

The ten day notice, written by the Georgia Legislature, must be sent certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, before criminal bad check prosecution is commenced in Cobb County. The letter should be sent immediately if the check is returned Account Closed or No Account. If you receive a check marked insufficient funds, the letter may be sent after the first time the check is returned or you may re-present the check and wait until after the second time the same check is returned. Our policy requires you to send a letter within ninety (90)days from the time you discovered the check was bad, or a warrant or citation may not be issued.

The purpose of the letter is to let the customer know that his/her check is not good. Accordingly, you need to send the letter to the person who signed the check; to the address that is listed on the check. If you know of another address for the customer, you should send it to both addresses, certified or registered mail. Make an actual copy of each letter you send to use as evidence in obtaining a warrant or citation. You are required to use the exact wording in the letter. This letter is accepted in all 159 counties in Georgia. Should the maker not respond to the Ten Day Notice, the merchant is then entitled to process this item through the judicial system for collection.

The option to issue a Bad Check Citation, as opposed to a warrant, depends upon:

  • The amount of the insufficient check. Citations may be issued only when the check amount is less than $1,500.00.
  • Whether or not the bad check offender has existing warrants and/or a criminal record, in which case he/she is not eligible for the Citation Program.

If the amount of the insufficient check is $1,500.00 or more, the merchant must present the collection item along with the Ten Day Notice letter to the Magistrate's Office in order to have a criminal warrant issued. A processing fee is charged regardless of whether the citation or the warrant is issued. This fee is reimbursed to the merchant by the offender upon collection of the debt.

The warrant process can involve a lengthy time period (usually a year or more) before the case is actually settled, and the merchant may or may not receive restitution. Additionally, the maker of the bad check is left with a permanent criminal record. Therefore, it is in the best interest of both the merchant and the maker of the bad check to utilize the Citation Program whenever possible.

If the amount of the insufficient check is $1,500.00 or less, the merchant can elect to have a Bad Check Citation issued instead of a warrant. The procedure and the cost are the same, however, the settlement process is greatly simplified. Collection time on a citation averages between 45-60 days and the offender will not have a criminal record if the debt is settled promptly.

When the citation method is used, the offender is notified of the Bad Check Citation through the mail via letter from the Cobb County Sheriff's Office Citation Section. The letter informs the offender that a citation was issued by the Magistrate Court of Cobb County charging them with the criminal offense of issuing a bad check. The offender is instruction to "report to the Cobb County Sheriff's Office" and "voluntarily accept service...and avoid having a permanent arrest record." The offender is warned in the letter that "failure to report and accept service could result in the issuance of a criminal warrant and subsequent arrest."

Once the offender contacts the Sheriff's Office, he/she has fifteen (15) days in which to satisfy the bad check and the processing costs associated with the bad check. If the offender fails to meet this requirement, the court date set at the time of acceptance of the citation will be invoked, and the offender will have to appear before the Magistrate Court to make payment. Payment may be made until 5:00PM on the court date. If payment is not made, the citation is converted to a misdemeanor arrest warrant.

If the amount of the insufficient check is $1,500.00 or more

If the amount of the insufficient check is $1,500.00 or more, the merchant must present the collection item along with the Ten Day Notice letter to the Magistrate's Office in order to have a criminal warrant issued. A processing fee is charged regardless of whether the citation or the warrant is issued. This fee is reimbursed to the merchant by the offender upon collection of the debt.The warrant process can involve a lengthy time period (usually a year or more) before the case is actually settled, and the merchant may or may not receive restitution. Additionally, the maker of the bad check is left with a permanent criminal record. Therefore, it is in the best interest of both the merchant and the maker of the bad check to utilize the Citation Program whenever possible.

If the amount of the insufficient check is $1,500.00 or less

If the amount of the insufficient check is $1,500.00 or less, the merchant can elect to have a Bad Check Citation issued instead of a warrant. The procedure and the cost are the same, however, the settlement process is greatly simplified. Collection time on a citation averages between 45-60 days and the offender will not have a criminal record if the debt is settled promptly.

When the citation method is used, the offender is notified of the Bad Check Citation through the mail via letter from the Cobb County Sheriff's Office Citation Section. The letter informs the offender that a citation was issued by the Magistrate Court of Cobb County charging them with the criminal offense of issuing a bad check. The offender is instruction to "report to the Cobb County Sheriff's Office" and "voluntarily accept service...and avoid having a permanent arrest record." The offender is warned in the letter that "failure to report and accept service could result in the issuance of a criminal warrant and subsequent arrest."

Once the offender contacts the Sheriff's Office, he/she has fifteen (15) days in which to satisfy the bad check and the processing costs associated with the bad check. If the offender fails to meet this requirement, the court date set at the time of acceptance of the citation will be invoked, and the offender will have to appear before the Magistrate Court to make payment. Payment may be made until 5 p.m. on the court date. If payment is not made, the citation is converted to a misdemeanor arrest warrant.

Applying for a Bad Check Citation / Warrant

When applying for a bad check citation or warrant, verify the following:

Was the check received in Cobb County?

  • If not, the applicant must take criminal action in the county where the check was received.
  • If the check was sent through the mail, it can be processed in the county in which the receiver's mailbox is located.

Is the check marked NSF or ACCOUNT CLOSED?

  • Make sure the check is stamped by the bank.
  • If the check is not run through the bank within 30 days from receipt, the applicant must file a civil suit in the county that the person resides in.

Was the check given for a present consideration?

  • Present consideration means that one person provides a service or product and the check is given at the time in return for that service or product.
  • For example, a carpet company installs carpet at a customer's home. If the customer pays at the time the service is performed, it is present consideration. If the customer mails the company a check after the installation, it is not present consideration.

Was the check payment in full for the services or product received?

  • If the check was a partial payment or a payment on an account, the applicant must file a civil suit in the county where the accused resides.
  • A partial payment or payment on an account or existing debt is considered an extension of credit; therefore is not considered present consideration.

Was a demand letter sent?

  • Georgia law requires that a demand letter be sent to the debtor by certified, registered, or statutory overnight mail prior to commencing prosecution for bad checks.
  • Copies of the statutory demand letter provided for by Georgia law.
  • The demand letter must be sent to the individual who signed the check.
  • If the certified, registered, or statutory overnight delivery is unclaimed, it must remain unopened. You must present it to the court, just as you would if received the green certified card.
  • If the certified letter is signed for, you must wait 10 days from the date the debtor received the letter to commence prosecution.

Checklist / Time table

  • Was the check presented to the bank within 30 days from the date the check was written?
  • Was the demand letter sent within 90 days from the date of dishonor?

Other Things to Know About Filing for a Bad Check Citation

  1. You are not to receive any payments on the checks after you apply to the Magistrate Office for a criminal warrant or citation. If payment is accepted, you will be responsible for the dismissal fee.
  2. The Sheriff's Office serves all warrants and citations. After sixty days you may call the Magistrate Court at 770-528-8900 to find out the status of the warrant or citation.
  3. The crime occurred in the county in which the giving and receiving of the check took place.
  4. The Georgia Legislature writes the bad check laws. The Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court interpret these laws. The statute and the cases determine whether the Magistrate Court can issue a warrant or citation on a particular check. The Magistrate Court makes the final decision.
  5. You may be able to pursue a civil action even if a Magistrate turns down your request for a criminal warrant or citation.

Forms

Bad Check Application - Used by merchants and individuals to obtain a criminal bad check citation/warrant.

Bad Check Notice (Criminal) - Used to notify the writer of the check that the check will be turned over to the Magistrate Court as a citation and allows them to make the check good, prior to filing criminal charges.

The demand letter must be sent to the address on the check and must meet the following requirement set forth by the Official Code of Georgia:

  1. Check number, date of issuance, check amount, and the name of the bank.
  2. A demand for payment of the face value of the check plus $30.00 or 5% (whichever is greater) of the face amount of the check, which is the fee charged by the bank as a result of the dishonored check.
  3. A demand for payment of the check amount within 10 days of receipt of the letter.

Notice that criminal action may be taken against the debtor by the Magistrate Court, District Attorney or Solicitor's Office, if the amounts are not paid.

What do I need to submit with a Bad Check Citation Application?

  1. The Bad Check;
  2. A copy of the actual Ten Day Notice sent to the customer;
  3. The green Card which is the certified or the registered mail receipt (make sure you have waited 10 days after the letter was signed for) or the unclaimed/unopened returned letter;
  4. Name of person who accepted the check, and;
  5. Any other information you think may be important, including any response, whether oral or written, from the maker of the check. This information is to be provided on the Application for Bad Check Citation.

Bad Check Citation/Warrant Filing Fees

Fees to Apply for a Bad Check Citation or Warrant

A fee is charged per check for each warrant or citation application. An Accused Information Sheet also needs to be completed for each defendant that allegedly committed the offense of Bad Check.

Current fees can be found on our Fees and Forms page.

Fees to Dismiss a Bad Check Citation or Warrant

The following dismissal fees are currently in effect: Citation $67.50, misdemeanor warrant $108.00 and felony warrant $135.00. These fees are almost always paid by the defendant. However, the merchant would be responsible for these fees if he/she accepts payment or filed in error. Dismissal fees apply after the Magistrate's Office has received the application for the Bad Check Warrant or Citation. If the merchant recommends dismissal, the case will probably be ended. However, the final decision rests with the Magistrate Court.

Payment must be made by cash, money order or credit card. It is the policy of the Magistrate Court not to accept debit cards since the payment can be stopped similar to a check.