In most instances, writing a cold check is a crime pursuant to KRS 514.040 – Theft By Deception. Specifically, a “person is guilty of theft by deception when the person obtains property or services of another by deception with the intent to deprive the person thereof…A person deceives when the person intentionally issues or passes a check or similar sight order for the payment of money, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee.”

Bad checks are a problem that all businesses in Warren County must confront. Collecting on bad checks are a problem for most businesses because the time and cost involved outweigh the benefit of having the debt paid. The Warren County Attorney’s Office is here to help.

What checks qualify for the bad check program?

  • Checks that have been stamped by the bank stating: Account Closed, No Account, Unable to Locate, and Nonsufficient Funds.
  • Checks stating: Refer to Maker, Held Funds, Overdraft, Uncollected Funds Hold, No Debts Allowed, and Unavailable Funds. For these checks, you must have a statement from the bank showing the status of the account on the date the check was issued.
  • Checks must have a bank stamp showing presentation to the bank within 30 days of the issue date on the check.
  • Prosecution of check writers should begin as soon as possible after the check was issued.
  • The statute of limitations is one (1) year for checks under $500. These checks are considered misdemeanors. However, checks over $500 are felonies and do not have a statute of limitations.

What checks do not qualify for the bad check program?

  • Post-dated or held checks.
  • Two-party checks, stop-payment checks (unless merchant holds a bingo license.)
  • Checks where both parties knew there were insufficient funds at the time of transaction.
  • Checks issued as a payment on a loan, as part of an agreement or pay to an open account.
  • The identity of the check writer is not known.
  • There is no amount or signature on the check.
  • The check comes from a frozen or blocked account.
  • Checks where the address is a PO Box.
  • Checks written on a corporate/business account, unless you provide verification from the Secretary of State’s office that the person who signed the check had the authority to do so.
  • Rent Checks, unless you give possession of the property in exchange for the check, by way of the keys or first month’s rent, or the check was written in response to a threat of eviction. In all other circumstances, the rent check is considered as a payment on an account and is civil in nature.

Why use the County Attorney’s Office to collect your bad checks?

  • There is no cost to you.
  • The Warren County Attorney’s Office will collect the face amount of the check, and also collect an additional merchant fee of $50.00 for you for each check. Defendants are also charged an additional $50.00 processing fee paid to the Warren County Attorney’s Office.
  • Only this office can criminally prosecute bad check writers. Collection agencies and check service companies cannot use the criminal court system to collect checks.
  • As a law enforcement agency, the Warren County Attorney’s Office has the ability to access more extensive and current data bases and resources than check collection agencies and check service companies.

How does the bad check program work for merchants?

  • Bring the check to the Warren County Attorney’s Office at 1001 Center Street, Suite 206, Bowling Green, KY 42101 Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
  • You should have a valid street address and be able to identify the maker of the check. If the Warren County Attorney’s Office issues criminal charges, the Sheriff cannot serve the defendant without a valid address.
  • If criminal charges are necessary, you must provide a date of birth, social security number, or driver’s license number for the Defendant.
  • After you provide the check to the Warren County Attorney’s Office, we will then send a letter notifying the check writer that he/she has fourteen (14) days to pay the check and fees.
  • If the check writer fails to make the full payment, our office will call the merchant to sign a criminal complaint for Theft by Deception.
  • Once the criminal complaint is signed, the check writer will receive a summons to appear in court. Merchants do not need to be present in court.
  • We encourage merchants to bring bad checks to our office as soon as possible if your efforts to collect payment have failed. The sooner we pursue collection, the better the results.
  • You should not use this service if someone stops payment on a check to you because of a dispute over the quality or quantity of work done – this would be a civil dispute.

How can you protect yourself from cold checks?

  • Always ask for official photo identification, like a driver’s license. Compare the official photo with the person presenting the check. Write down pertinent information such as correct address, birthdate, operator’s license number, and phone number.
  • Compare the signature on the identification to that of the check writer.
  • Never accept a check with only an imprinted post office number as the address.
  • If you have reservations about accepting a check, verify the check with the bank it is drawn on. You are under no obligation to accept a check.
  • Do not allow the check writer to put his or her information on the check; the merchant should do this.