Judge works to fix hot check problem

Paragould judges consider reforming punishment for hot check offenders
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

GREENE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - A Greene County judge is considering a new solution to hot check offenders.

Judge Dan Stidham is looking into having hot check offenders where a sign saying they were convicted just like the shoplifting signs he started over a year ago.

Stidham said they have seen a decrease in shoplifters since the sign option started.

"We have seen a decrease in offenders because they don't want to wear that sign and they don't want to go to jail," Stidham said.

Stidham and the Greene County Hot Check Coordinator Rhonda Thomas have been working on a way to stop hot check offenders for years.

Several years ago the two started a program so merchants could get their money back faster and offenders would learn their lesson.

"Before a hot check might take 6 months to go to court and then when you get to court you could plead guilty and set up a time pay account and it is better than a credit card because you're not paying any interest," Stidham said.

The program the two started had first time offenders pay a fine and go to classes on balancing a check book.

Then second time offenders would be sent to jail.

Stidham said the problem now is they are seeing more and more second time offenders.

"The problem now is we are seeing more second offenders than I would really like to see and it is the small businesses that are getting hit the hardest," Stidham said,

Stidham and Thomas said the main goal is to make sure the merchants get their money back.

"My main purpose is to recover the merchant's money once the crime has been committed and writing hot checks is a crime just as shoplifting is," Thomas said.

Hot checks can cost merchants a lot of money over the year, which can hurt them.

"It averages about 200 thousand dollars a year that goes back to the merchants and the community in Greene County and that is pretty significant when you look at the merchants loss," Thomas said.

Stidham said making hot check offenders where a convicted sign is not a done deal yet.

He would like some input from community members before he tries to start the program.

"We want input because we want to make sure we are not approaching it from the wrong direction," Stidham said.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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