In an effort to keep up with the growing demand by citizens of this State for tougher laws on crime, the Alabama Legislature enacted in the Regular Session of 1991, the Worthless Check Act” (Act. No. 91-319), to deter and prosecute persons who violate the law by negotiating bad checks and other forms of negotiable instruments. In 2014, the Legislature amended the law (Act. No. 14-444) to include electronic drafts in the definition of negotiable instruments for the purposes of the section of the law dealing with worthless instruments. When this law is properly implemented, it provides merchants and prosecutors with an effective means to combat perpetrators of bad checks and bad electronic drafts. Listed below is a compilation of the laws governing worthless checks/instruments.
§13A-9-13.1. Negotiating worthless negotiable instrument – Generally
(a) A person commits the crime of negotiating a worthless negotiable instrument if the person negotiates or delivers a negotiable instrument for a thing of value and with the intent, knowledge or expectation that it will not be honored by the drawee.
(b) For the purposes of this section, it is prima facie evidence that the maker or drawer intended, knew, or expected that the instrument would not be honored in any of the following instances:
(1) The maker or drawer had no account with the drawee at the time the negotiable instrument was negotiated or delivered, as determined according to Section 7-3-503(2).
(2) Payment was refused by the drawee for lack of funds, upon presentation within 30 days after delivery, and the maker or drawer shall not have paid the holder thereof the amount due thereon, together with a service charge of not more than $30.00, within 10 days after receiving written notice from the holder of the instrument that payment was refused upon the instrument, as provided in Section 13A-9-13.2.
(3) Notice that payment was refused is mailed by certified or registered mail and is returned undelivered to the sender, when the notice is mailed within a reasonable time after dishonor to the address printed on the instrument or given by the maker or drawer at the time of issuance of the instrument.
(c) Negotiating a worthless negotiable instrument is a Class A misdemeanor. Under this section of the law, there are two ways in which to establish prima facie evidence against the drawer of a check that the individual knew the instrument would be dishonored.
(1) The check-writer fails to have an account with the financial institution on which the check is drawn when the instrument is negotiated; or
(2) Within 30 days after receipt of the check, the financial institution must refuse to pay the instrument upon presentation to the merchant due to lack of sufficient funds of the check-writer. Further, the check-writer must refuse to pay the merchant the face value of the check plus a $30.00 service charge, within 10 days after receipt of notice of dishonor from the merchant via certified or registered mail.
(d) For the purposes only of this section and Sections 13A-9-13.2 and 13A-9-13.3, the term “negotiable instrument” shall include electronic drafts.
PRIMA FACIA EVIDENCE OF IDENTITY
OF THE BAD-CHECK WRITER
§13A-9-13.3. Negotiating worthless negotiable instrument – Prima Facie evidence of identity.
(a) In any prosecution or action under the provisions of Section 13A-9-13.1, a negotiable instrument for which the information required in subsections (b) and (c) of this section is available at the time of issuance shall constitute prima facie evidence of the identity of the party issuing the negotiable instrument and that such person was a party authorized to draw upon the named account.
(b) To establish this prima facie evidence, the following information regarding the identity of the party presenting the negotiable instrument shall be requested by the party receiving such instrument: the presenter’s name, residence address, and home phone number. Such information may be provided by either of two methods:
(1) It may be recorded upon the negotiable instrument itself; or
(2) The number of a check-cashing identification card issued by the receiving party may be recorded on the negotiable instrument. Such check-cashing identification card shall be issued only after the information required in this subsection has been placed on file by the receiving party.
(c) In addition to the information required in subsection (b) of this section, the party receiving a negotiable instrument shall witness the signature or endorsement of the party presenting such negotiable instrument and, as evidence of such; the receiving party shall initial the negotiable instrument.
To establish prima facie evidence of the identity of the bad check-writer, and that the individual authorized the instrument drawn on his account, merchants must obtain the following information from the check-writer:
· the individual’s name
· residence address
· home phone number
This information may be taken from the check itself; or from the number on the check-cashing identification card issued by the merchant. Merchants must not issue a check-cashing identification card until the information required by law about the check-writer has been placed on file in the merchant’s business. Lastly, when an individual writes a check, a merchant or an employee of the merchant must witness the signature of the check-writer and place his initials on the instrument. Merchants are encouraged to request a government-issued photo identifications authorized by law (current and valid, including any branch, department agency or entity of the federal government) to accept checks. A passport is also acceptable. The address on the ID should match the address on the check. If a photo ID is not available, a merchant can refuse the check or could allow two or three forms of non-photo ID to include: a social security card, utility bill of writer with writer’s name and address, valid U.S. military identification, birth certificate (certified copy), naturalization document (certified copy), valid Medicaid card, valid Medicare card, valid electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, or another government document that shows the name and address of the writer.
NOTICE OF DISHONOR SENT TO THE BAD-CHECK WRITER
In accordance with the law, a merchant is required to send notice of dishonor to an individual who has written a bad check via certified or registered mail, with return receipt requested. This notice must be sent within a reasonable time after the check has been dishonored, either to the address listed on the face of the instrument or to the residence indicated by the check-writer at the time the check was issued.
Merchants are required to strictly follow the form for notice of dishonor as specified in the statute.
§13A-9-13.2 Negotiating worthless negotiable instrument – Notice of refusal of payment upon instrument.
(1) Notice mailed by certified or registered mail, evidenced by return receipt, to the address printed on the instrument or given at the time of issuance shall be deemed sufficient and equivalent to notice having been received by the person making, drawing, uttering or delivering said instrument.
(2) The form of notice shall be substantially as follows:
“This statutory notice is provided pursuant to Section 13A-9-13.2 of the Alabama Code. You are hereby notified that a check or instrument numbered………, apparently issued by you on…….(date), drawn upon…………..(name of bank), and payable to…………. has been dishonored.
Pursuant to Alabama law, you have 10 days from receipt of this notice to tender payment of the full amount of the check or instrument plus a service charge of not more than $30.00, the total amount due being $………
Unless this amount is paid in full within the specified time above, the holder of such check or instrument may assume that you delivered the instrument with intent to defraud and may turn over the dishonored instrument and all other available information relating to this incident to the proper authorities for criminal prosecution.”
(3) Any party holding a worthless negotiable instrument and giving notice in substantially similar form to that provided in subdivision (2) of this section shall be immune from civil or criminal liability for the giving of the notice and for proceeding under the forms of such notice.
Merchants who give a notice of dishonor which complies with the statutory form or which is substantially similar to that form will be protected from civil or criminal liability for giving the notice and taking any legal action based on the notice.
For further information regarding bad checks, merchants are strongly encouraged to contact the district attorney’s office in your county to determine if there is an established worthless check unit that can offer some assistance.