Check Enforcement Program
Each day, thousands of checks are written to pay for goods or services - yet hundreds are not honored when presented at the bank. Hard working merchants and others go unpaid.
If you or your business is the victim of a bad check, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office may be able to help you get the money you are owed.
Our Check Enforcement Program has a mission to pursue bad check writers and make them pay up - even if it means taking them to court. The program is largely funded by fees paid by bad check writers, making this a completely FREE service to victims and merchants.
BEFORE You Receive a Bad Check
Be sure to follow our C.H.E.C.K. list before accepting any check:
Card every “check writer” - Write down the photo ID number (preferably an Arizona Driver License) and date of birth of the signer. Remember, a social security card is not legitimate identification.
Handle the check - Feel the edges of the check. Can you feel a perforated side? How does the paper feel? Was it washed, erased, chemically wiped, taped together or altered with white correction tape?
Examine the preprinted information - Is there a printed address and name? Does the banking institution currently exist? For Arizona banks, do the numbers at the bottom (routing numbers) start with "12" for banks or "32" for credit unions? Is the check number at the top showing up on the bottom row of numbers? Routing numbers at bottom of check should not be in shiny ink, but should reflect flat or dull.
Confirm the handwritten data - Make sure the date is accurate, and the dollar amounts match. Be sure the signature matches the account name and that it is legible. Print the signer's name above the signature if you cannot read it.
Keep your procedure consistent - Even if you think you know the check writer, insist on seeing ID and write the information on the check (AZ Driver License, date of birth).
If You Receive a Bad Check
Send a Demand for Payment letter to the bad check writer; Form A if the amount is less than $5,000 and Form B if the amount is $5,000 or more. If you do not receive payment within the specified time frame, fill out a Victim Information Form (PDF) (first time victims only), attach the bad check to a completed Submittal/Witness Form (PDF), and mail or deliver these materials to our office:
MCAO Check Enforcement Program
225 West Madison Street
Phoenix, AZ 85003
If there is sufficient evidence to prove that a crime was committed, we will take action against the bad check writer which could result in a criminal court summons and/or a warrant for arrest. Penalties for issuing a bad check include up to 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine, plus full restitution.
- What should I do if I get a bad check?
If you or your business has received a bad check in exchange for goods or services, fill out a Victim Information Form (first time victims only), attach the bad check to a completed Submittal/Witness Form (use a separate form for each bad check), and mail or deliver these materials to our office: MCAO Check Enforcement Program, 225 West Madison Street, Phoenix, AZ 85003. If there is sufficient evidence to prove the ID of the check writers, we will take action — including criminal prosecution — to collect the funds you are owed from the bad check writer plus a $25 merchant fee at no cost to you.
- What types of checks are NOT handled by the program?
We can only handle checks where the check writer’s identity can be proven. There are also other types of cases that are not handled by the Check Enforcement Program, such as:
- Stale Checks: Checks that are older than 180 days past the date issued are considered stale and usually are declined. It is preferable that all checks are submitted as promptly as possible.
- Postdated Checks: These types of checks are considered an extension of credit and are inappropriate for prosecution under Arizona law.
- Credit Card Accounts
- Traveler’s Checks
- Health Savings Accounts
- Checks issued, passed or accepted in another county or state.
- Any check for which partial payment has been accepted. Acceptance of a partial payment constitutes extension of credit or a loan, resulting in a civil defense.
- Checks with illegible, forged, dual or stamped signatures
- Checks that involve civil disputes
- What happens to the bad check writer?
Most “first time” bad check writers will be provided an opportunity to avoid prosecution by payment of full restitution and state mandated fees. If the check writer does not make full restitution, and if sufficient evidence for criminal charges is available, criminal prosecution may be initiated. If the check writer is a repeat offender, or if evidence exists of intent to defraud from the beginning, the County Attorney will attempt to prosecute.
Bad check writers face a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail for each bad check; $2,500 in fines, restitution up to twice the amount of the check; and state mandated collection fees pursuant to A.R.S §13-1807 and §13-1810.
- What else can I do to recover funds from a bad check?
We encourage the victims to contact the check writer to resolve the issue of non-payment. We have provided “Demand for Payment” guidelines and example letters you can mail to the check writer. This should be taken prior to contacting the Check Enforcement Program.
- What if I receive payment after submitting a check to the program?
Once a check has been submitted to the Check Enforcement Program, do not accept payment for the check! Any money sent to you by the check writer should be immediately returned to the check writer or forwarded to the Check Enforcement Program with a note asking that the money be applied to your specific case.
- I’m the check writer - how do I take care of this?
Writing a bad check may result in criminal charges filed, a summons to court, warrant for your arrest and having a permanent record of being a bad check writer. The Program offers you, the check writer, the opportunity to divert this matter from going to court. If the balance is paid in full before criminal charges are filed, then this offense will not go on your permanent record.
Payments can be mailed to: MCAO Check Enforcement Program, 225 West Madison Street, Phoenix, AZ 85003
We only accept payment by money order or cashier’s check by mail or a credit card through our online payment portal. Payment by mail must include your Personal ID (PID) number on all forms of payment. A receipt will be mailed to you showing the payment was received and your account credited. The online payment portal requires your PID number and last name to access the system. Do not pay the merchant(s), or the person(s) to whom the check was originally written.
- A case has been filed against me, how do I resolve this?
You may have a warrant out for your arrest. You have the following options:
- You can pay off the entire balance owed to Check Enforcement. After the office receives payment in full, the Program will send a dismissal to the Justice Court your case is filed in. You should also contact the Justice Court, as the courts impose their own fines and fees per case.
- You can sign a guilty plea in the Justice Court. Contact the Justice Court, ask for a court date or when open court is scheduled. Arrive at your court date and let the Judge know you are there to sign a guilty plea. The court may give you the option to make monthly restitution payments, outlined in your plea. Payments are to be sent to the Check Enforcement Program. Include your personal ID number (PID#) with all payments. After the office receives payment in full, the Program will send a dismissal to the Justice Court your case is filed in. You should also contact the Justice Court, as the courts impose their own fines and fees per case.
- You can request a trial.
- I received your letter, but I have been the victim of identity theft. How do I resolve this with your office?
Contact our office to let us know you will be submitting the following paperwork verifying that you were the victim of identity theft: police report, notarized letter from your banking institution and any additional information you have received regarding your ID theft. All information must be submitted to our office in a timely manner. We will have a detective review the information for accuracy. You may be required to come into the office to sign an affidavit of forgery. Until you provide the information requested, via email, fax or mail and is verified we will still show this as an open case.
Downloads for Merchants, Business Owners, Victims