What is a Bad Check Restitution Program?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 January 2020
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In the United States, a bad check restitution program is run by local governments and works to recoup monies lost by merchants who have received a bad check from a customer. Under the program, bad check writers are given the opportunity to pay the check’s original amount, as well as any additional restitution fees, in lieu of facing criminal prosecution for deliberately writing a check that could not be cashed. A bad check restitution program not only helps to recover losses and offers the check writer the opportunity to avoid prosecution, but a bad check program also requires bad check writers to attend a special class, which addresses behaviors and motivating factors that may have led to bad check writing in the first place.

In order for a bad check program to operate effectively, it is important for merchants to cooperate with the rules of their local program from the moment a check is presented as payment for goods or services rendered. Merchants must, therefore, be sure that checks are signed by the customer and that legal identification is offered to assure the check writer’s identity. Typically, a bad check restitution program will require that identifying information, such as the customer’s driver’s license number or other legal identification number, as well as the customer’s date of birth, be written on the check at the time it is submitted for payment.


After participation in a bad check restitution program, most offenders do not continue to write bad checks. The education offered through a diversion program’s class combined with the fear of prosecution in the event of a future bad check writing incident, usually present enough of a deterrent to stop individuals from becoming repeat offenders. The program also deters would-be bad check writers, which further helps to reduce the number of potential bad check losses that merchants may otherwise suffer from.

Law enforcement agencies also benefit from a bad check restitution program in that resources spent on arrests and prosecutions for such crimes are reduced. Overall, these programs not only serve business owners and reduce the burdens previously placed on law enforcement, but they also benefit the public at large by reducing crime and the amount of revenue spent to prosecute such crimes. A bad check restitution program also helps the public avoid higher consumer prices and fewer acceptable payment options, which often result from an abundance of bad check crimes.


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