Frequently Asked Questions

Hot Checks

What do I do if I have been notified by the bank that I have written a bad check?


Assuming I have, in fact, written a bad check: call the merchant you wrote the check to immediately and pay for the bad check. This will prevent you from being arrested and save you additional fees incurred once the check is filed with the District Attorney’s Office.




What do I do if I have received a letter from the District Attorney’s Office regarding a worthless check?


Assuming I have, in fact, written a bad check: call the Worthless Check Division to arrange payment of the check and related fees. We attempt to notify every check writer before a warrant is issued for their arrest. If you respond to the notice and pay the check and related fees, you will not be arrested. Otherwise, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Paying the check and fees before a warrant is issued saves you time and money. You will not be arrested, have to post bond, or have to go to court and face criminal prosecution. The District Attorney's Office Worthless Check Division accepts money orders or cashier's checks. No cash or personal checks will be accepted. If a warrant has already issued for your arrest, paying the check and fees DOES NOT close your case or cancel your warrant.




What steps should I take to file a check with the District Attorney’s Office?


If the check was in exchange for goods or services, which the check writer received at the time the check was written, the check should be submitted to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution. There are certain procedures you must follow before a check can be accepted for prosecution:

  1. Present the check to the bank for payment within thirty (30) days of the date the check wa issued. All checks must be presented to the bank for payment, even if you know it will not be honored.
  2. The check must be returned with a bank stamp indicating account closed or insufficient funds.
  3. You must send written notification to the check writer informing him or her of the reason the check was not honored. The following sample letter sets out the information which must be included. You should keep a copy of the notice to provide to the District Attorney's office.

    ***Sample Letter***
Dear _______________ (Check writer’s name): Your check #____, dated (full date), in the amount of $________ has been returned by
(name of bank) unpaid and marked "(reason stamped on the check by bank)." "This is a demand for payment in full for a check or order not paid because of lack of funds or insufficient funds. If you fail to make payment in full within ten (10) days after the date of receipt of this notice, the failure to pay creates a presumption for committing an offense, and this matter may be referred for criminal prosecution." If the check is stamped “stop payment,” a written demand for payment of the check or return of the merchandise must be sent to the check writer by certified mail, return receipt requested. A criminal case cannot be filed if the check writer offers to return the merchandise. You should keep a copy of the notice to provide to the District Attorney’s Office.

***Sample Stop Payment Letter*** Dear _______________ (Check writer’s name): Your check #____, dated (full date), in the amount of $________ has been returned by (name of bank) unpaid and marked "(reason stamped on the check by bank)." "This is a demand for payment in full for a check or order not paid because of lack of funds or insufficient funds. If you fail to make payment in full within ten (10) days after the date of receipt of this notice, the failure to pay creates a presumption for committing an offense, and this matter may be referred for criminal prosecution." Since this check was not paid because of a stop-payment order, you have the option of either paying the check or returning the merchandise within ten (10) days of receipt of this notice. The failure to either return the merchandise or make restitution for the check creates a presumption for committing an offense and this matter may be referred for criminal prosecution.
  1. Wait ten (10) days after the check writer has received the written notice.
  2. For all insufficient funds and stop-payment checks, complete a complaint form.
  3. Bring:
    (1) The legal copy of the check with the bank flag or notation with the reason it was dishonored.
    (2) The completed complaint form, and in the case of a stop-payment check: a copy of the written notice with the signed receipt from the certified letter or the unopened letter marked refused or unclaimed, to the District Attorney’s Office. This information can also be mailed to the District Attorney’s Office Worthless Check Division, P.O. Box 599, Anderson, Texas 77830.
    (3) Copy of letter mailed to check writer.

NOTE: If you cannot provide a driver’s license or ID card number and the check writer's date of birth, the chances of a successful prosecution are greatly reduced. It is difficult to locate a check writer without this information.




Can a worthless check be prosecuted?


Checks stamped by the bank “account closed” or “insufficient funds” received in Grimes County in exchange for goods or services which the check writer received at the time the check was written may be prosecuted as theft if it can be proven the check writer intended to steal the goods or services. The key is the check must be received at the time the goods or services are provided. These checks are handled by the District Attorney’s Office. Please note the following DO NOT qualify for prosecution as theft: held checks, post-dated checks, checks to repay a debt, checks given as a deposit, and payroll checks. Checks that cannot be prosecuted as theft may be prosecuted as issuance of a bad check. These checks are handled by the Justice of the Peace Courts.




What happens after the check is turned over to the District Attorney’s Worthless Check Division?


The District Attorney’s Office will attempt to notify the check writer via letter a criminal case will be filed if the check and fees are not paid immediately. If there is no response within ten days, a warrant will be issued for the check writer’s arrest. Upon arrest, the check writer will have to post bond to get out of jail and make court appearances. Once in court, the check writer can accept the recommended punishment, known as a plea-bargain, or demand a trial. Most plea bargains require a check writer to pay restitution and your dishonored check fee or to serve time in jail in lieu of restitution. Due to the volume of checks, it is not possible to give a status report on each case. If we are unable to collect a check, it will be returned to you. Calling to check the status of your check may delay the collection process.




Does the District Attorney charge the merchant a fee to collect a check?


No.




Does the District Attorney collect the merchant’s return check fee?


A merchant may collect a returned check fee not to exceed $30.00. In most cases, the District Attorney will collect this fee on behalf of the merchant.




Can I accept payment on a check after the check has been filed with the District Attorney?


No. When a check is given to the District Attorney for prosecution, only the District Attorney can collect restitution. A merchant agrees not to accept any payments for the check by signing the complaint form. If a merchant accepts any restitution, the case will be dismissed. Also, accepting partial payment prior to filing the check with our office will create a promise to pay and prohibits prosecution as a crime.




What is the time limit to file a check for prosecution?


File a complaint with the District Attorney's Office within 60 days of the check's issuance including 1) the check itself or a copy including any bank notations, and 2) a completed, original and accurate "worthless check" affidavit signed by the complainant. A check must be deposited within 30 days from date written.




What do I need to provide in the "Worthless Check" affidavit?


Our office requires the following in the affidvait.

  1. Valid Texas driver's license or state id number on the affidavit. This should be obtained at the time the check is written so as to be certain of the check writer's identity.
  2. The name of the person who took the check.
  3. A valid street or physical address (no p.o. boxes).
  4. Checks must be deposited within 30 days of the date received and must be filed with our office within 60 days.
  5. Affidavit must be completely filled out for all checks. If you have multiple checks taken by the same person under the same circumstances, you may include up to 3 checks per affidavit. We will not accept faxed or copied affidavits. All affidavits must be "original".
  6. Every affidavit must have an original signature of the complainant. We will not accept affidavits with "stamped" or "copied" signatures nor with signatures from collection agencies or other agents.
Failure to provide a complete and accurate "worthless check affidavit" will result in the check being return to you without prosecution.




What if a check writer claims their signature had been forged?


Forgery occurs when a bank account holder claims another person has signed his or her name on a check without consent. This is a crime that should be reported to the local police agency in the jurisdiction where the check was received. The Worthless Check Division cannot accept forged checks for prosecution. If a check is returned by a bank with a stamp indicating the check has been stolen or lost, the Worthless Check Division will not accept the check for prosecution.




What can I do to minimize losses due to worthless checks?


Never accept a check without checking the ID of the person signing the check. Always be sure to compare the signature and picture ID of the check writer to the person offering the check as payment. Never allow the check writer to tell you their ID number, but observe it yourself and record it carefully. If you file a complaint with the Worthless Check Division, you will be required to swear that the person who stood before you was the same person whose ID number you recorded. Many banks have reduced their losses to worthless checks by asking check cashers to provide a thumbprint when cashing a check. The print is inkless and the equipment is inexpensive and readily available from several vendors. You can contact your bank for the names of the companies providing such products. Be aware of the following high-risk checks:

  1. Temporary checks. Checks that are not personalized are often at risk. They do not have the account owner’s name printed on each checks.
  2. Low-numbered checks. Nine of ten worthless checks bear numbers lower than 300.
  3. A check writer presents an ID other than a driver’s license. Beware of checks offered by check writers who present for identification passports, green cards, student ID’s, and military ID’s.
  4. Non-local checks. Non-local check writers are much harder to identify and prosecute. Out-of-state bank records are almost impossible for us to get.
  5. Non-residence address on the check. A post office box printed on a check rather than a residence has been shown to be a risk factor.
  6. Illegible signature on the check. A sloppy signature may be an attempt to prevent easy comparison with the signature on the ID.
  7. Multiple checks. Multiple checks drawn on the same account or by the same check writer in the same day allows the check writer to steal as much as possible before you find out the checks are worthless.
  8. Pre-signed checks. You cannot swear the check writer signed the check and nobody can prove the signatory knew the amount for which the check would be written.





Victim/Witness

What if someone threatens me to drop charges?


Such a person is obstructing justice and may be guilty of a felony offense called “retaliation.” If this happens, you should immediatley call the law enforcement agency which investigated the case originally, contact the assistant district attorney who is handling the case or the victim assistance coordinator.




What are some possible delays?


In Grimes County, the courts not only hear the criminal cases but also civil cases. In the County Court at Law, the Judge must also handle juvenile and probate cases. Considering the fact over four hundred felony and one thousand misdemeanor cases are filed each year, a small backlog of cases can occur. These cases are moved as quickly as possible by the courts and my office, but may not be reached for trial 6 to 24 months.




Why do some cases get dismissed?


If the assistant district attorney handling a case determines there is not sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction, he may file a motion with the judge asking the case be dismissed. This action is taken only after the case has been completely investigated and normally after the police have exhausted all avenues for obtaining additional evidence. Even after probable cause has been initially established, a key witness may no longer be available, a defense motion suppressing critical evidence may be granted, or new evidence casting doubt on a defendant’s guilt may come to light.




What is a plea bargain? Will my case be plea bargained?


The term “plea bargain” is often misleading to the public since it seems to imply the defendant has received a light sentence. The goal of the District Attorney's Office is to negotiate a punishment which you find acceptable. However, ultimately, we are swrn to seek justice. The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved by a plea bargain, which is, like in a civil case, a negotiated settlement. A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor, the defendant, and the defendant’s attorney that the State will recommend a specific punishment if the defendant will enter a plea of guilty. In exchange for a guaranteed punishment against the defendant, the defendant gives up all of the Constitutional Rights pertaining to criminal law. When plea bargains are reached, victims and other witnesses are not required to come to court to testify and large numbers of unresolved cases can be reduced. In arriving at a proper punishment through a plea bargain, the facts of the case and anyprior criminal record of the defendant will be considered. As part of the plea-bargaining process, your victim impact statement, if completed and returned to the district Attorney's Office, will play an important role. The victim impact statement provided by the victim, guardian of the victim, or close relative of a deceased victim will be considered by the prosecutor representing the state in entering in a plea bargain agreement. Before accepting the plea bargain, the judge is required under Section 26.13 (e) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to ask whether a victim impact statement has been returned to the attorney. If an impact statement has been returned, the judge must ask for a copy of the statement.




What is a victim impact statement?


Texas law gives a victim the right to complete a victim impact statement. In this statement, a victim explains to the judge how the crime affected them and their family physically, emotionally, and financially. The statement is the voice of the victim when the defendant is sentenced, whether he enters a plea bargain agreement or is convicted at trial. You may write your own statement on a form from the victim assistance coordinator of my office. Do not send the statement directly to the judge. Instead, return it to the prosecutor or victim assistance coordinator. Although Texas law applies these rights only to victims of violent crime, we welcome this information from every crime victim. Victim impact statements are confidential and will not be shared.




What is a victim assistance coordinator?


The victim assistance coordinator assists with arranging counseling, applying for crime victim compensation benefits, and pretrial interviews in preparation for actual trial of a case. The coordinator provides continuing information to victims and witnesses regarding case status and scheduling. The victim assistance coordinator works full-time to assist crime victims and their families, as well as other civilian witnesses, with the sometimes-difficult activities associated with participation in the criminal justice process. The victim assistance coordinator has a liason who coordinates our office with LAw enforcement offices. The coordinator and the liason are the “go to” people when frustration and questions occur. The coordinator is particularly helpful in cases involving children who have been victimized and in sexual assault cases where victims often feel unusually violated.




What if a case is not resolved by a plea bargain?


Sometimes the punishment offered to a defendant in a plea bargain is more than a defendant is willing to accept. When an agreement cannot be reached, prosecutors ask the judge to set the case for trial.




How are witnesses called for trial?


Witnesses are notified by subpoena and/or letter specifying where and when to appear, and what, if anything, to bring with them to court. Witnesses usually receive their subpoenas more than a week prior or trial.




What should I wear to court?


Dress neatly and conservatively when making an appearance in court. Your manner of dress can have an impact upon the jurors listening to your testimony and deciding disputed facts. You may wish to bring a sweater or light jacket since many courtrooms are often cold.




What if a defense attorney contacts me about the case?


The attorney representing the defendant is performing a legal duty when he investigates the case. You may discuss the case with the defense attorney. However, you are not required to do so, and you may decline to talk to him or her. If you decide to discuss the case with the defense attorney, it is perfectly acceptable for you to request a prosecuting attorney be present.





General

What does it mean if the defendant is found not guilty?


A jury or judge must decide the case based upon legally admissible evidence. You may think a “not guilty” verdict is wrong. Remember, the defendant must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A “not guilty” verdict does not mean the defendant is “innocent.” In Texas jury trials, the determination the defendant is “guilty” or “not guilty” must be unanimous. If the verdict is not unanimous, the jury is "hung" and the defendant may be tried again.




What do I do at trial?


As a witness, you have an important part in the trial. The truthfulness of your testimony, the manner in which you give it, and the appearance you make while on the witness stand and in the courtroom are all factors which may be weighed by the jury or judge in deciding the case. You will be questioned by the prosecutor first.Then you will be “cross-examined” by the defense attorney. During cross-examination, you may sometimes feel your personal motives for testifying are under attack. However, the process is not meant to demean you or to be a personal attack upon you.




What should I do when a crime happens?


First, make a full report to your local law enforcement agency. In most cases, a law enforcement officer will meet with you in person to obtain important details and will inform you of all your rights as a crime victim. Depnding on the type of crime, the officer may provide you with the phone numbers of the crime victim liaison and the victim assistance coordinator. If you know where the suspect is, tell the police. Do not try to arrest or detain the person yourself.




What happens to the accused?


Soon after an arrest by a peace officer, the suspect is taken before a judge who informs the defendant of the reason he or she has been arrested and of his or her legal rights. The judge must also set bail. Unless the defendant can post bail in the amount set by the judge, he or she remains in custody to await further action in the case.




What is the purpose of bail?


Bail is allowed in virtually all cases, including felonies. Its sole purpose is to guarantee the defendant will appear in court for later proceedings. In setting the amount, the judge is required to consider the seriousness of the offense charged, the defendant’s ability to raise money to pay bail, the defendant’s ties to the community, his prior criminal record, if any, and your safety and the safety of your family. Bail may not be set so high as to punish a defendant by keeping him or her in jail pending trial.




How does my case get to the Grimes County District Attorney's Office?


If a suspect has already been arrested, or if a law enforcement agency is seeking a suspect's arrest, the agency will turn the case over to the District Attorney's Office for review. The case is reviewed by a prosecuting attorney who determines whether there is sufficient evidence to prove an offense was committed and whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the person accused committed the crime. Certain other legal questions may also be explored at this time, such as whether an arrest without a warrant was legally justified, whether certain evidence essential to the case was legally obtained, and whether additional investigation is required. Although some cases are refused for prosecution at this stage, most are eventually filed.




How is a case processed in the district attorney's office?


After a case is reviewed, we begin preparation of a file. This file will contain information provided by the law enforcement agency investigating your case and other information developed by our staff. If the case is a felony offense, it is sent to the grand jury for consideration. The period between filing of the case in our office and submission to the grand jury will vary due to many factors. Once a case is complete and ready, it is presented to the grand jury. After the grand jury presentation, the case is assigned to an assistant district attorney. If the case is a misdemeanor case, it is reviewed and, if accepted, is filed with the County Clerk. Misdemeanor cases are not required to be presented to a grand jury.




What is a grand jury?


A grand jury is a group of 12 citizens who consider whether indictments should be returned in felony cases. The grand jury meets regularly in Grimes County. Grand jurors are summonsed the same way potential jurors are summonsed to hear trials in the courts. Both groups are randomly selected by a computer from the voter registration and driver's license rolls. A district court judge reviews the legally established qualifications of those summonsed and selects 12 grand jurors and four alternate jurors. The District Attorney's Office has no input in the selection process. Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public and witnesses take an oath of secrecy before testifying. If the grand jury believes there is sufficient evidence to prove a person has committed a felony, it votes to issue what is called a “true bill”, or an indictment. At least nine grand jurors must vote in favor of an indictment or the case is “no-billed,” which terminates the case. Either Myself or my assistants present the case to the grand jury, but the actual consideration of cases is secret and only the grand jurors are present when voting is in progress.





© 2017 by Grimes County District Attorney's Office