Harris County Offers Another 'Amnesty' Period for Hot Check Writers

Hundreds of people who've written hot checks in Harris County over the last few months are about to get one final chance to pay up, before the cops come for them. As David Pitman reports, the District Attorney's office is bringing back its amnesty program, in hopes that the hot check writers will settle their debts to avoid criminal charges.

The October Amnesty Program is a lot like the one the DA's office held in July to clear out a backlog of hot check cases.  This go-round will focus on about 500 newer cases that were just coming into the system over the summer.

"These are cases that are in our pipeline that we've held up for a little while to see if one more notice to the prospective defendant can get them to pay the check. This is just their last chance to make the complainant whole, before we have to crank up the criminal machinery."

John Boone is in charge of the Check Fraud Division at the DA's office.    He says some of these bad check writers don't realize that merely having overdraft protection doesn't protect them from criminal charges.

"Every overdraft protection contract I've seen, and I see a lot as I look at bank records, has some limit to the number or amount of bad checks the bank is will pay."

The hot check amnesty runs through the end of the month.  After that, the cases that haven't been settled will be sent to a judge, who'll determine whether to issue arrest warrants.  The amnesty in July resulted in the collection of more than $130,000 in restitution and fees and the arrest of nearly 30 people, who had ignored the final warning. 

David Pitman, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

For inquiries about how to make restitution, and other program details, contact the District Attorney's Check Fraud Division at 713-755-7884 or visit the website.

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David Pitman

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