Your Family

Dec 11, 2009 12:06 PM by Steve Adamson

Bounced check sends Atascadero grandmother to jail

It's not often that we hear stories about a grandma having to go to jail, but that's what happened to 76 year old Patsy Spence from Atascadero over a 28 dollar check that didn't clear the bank.

It all started with a check she wrote to a local grocery store last March. After appearing in court Tuesday, she was sent to the San Luis Obispo County Jail. While awaiting booking, she says she was placed in a holding cell. "Well, you sit in your cell on this cement couch which is not real warm as it is, and you get to read the nasty writings on the wall," noted Spence.

Her granddaughter, Angie Spence accompanied her to the court appearance. "Seeing my grandmother being taken into jail like that just killed me inside. But they took her in and I waited about an hour and a half, hour and 45 minutes, or whatever and they let her out."

Rob Bryn, spokesman for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department said, "This happens at least a dozen times a week where court ordered bookings of all ages and genders happen. A judge says we have to book this person, so they come down here, they're processed in, they're given a court date and released."

The district attorney's office says most cases don't end up like this. The economic crimes division that handles bad check complaints sends notices to people giving them 30 days to pay before any court action takes place. In addition, many merchants try to contact customers directly before filing a complaint to give them an opportunity to make the check good.

In this case, the district attorney's office says they and the grocery store made numerous attempts over a four month period to contact Spence by phone and by mail to resolve the situation. They say the case escalated only after she repeatedly failed to respond appropriately.

Still, it's an experience that Spence says she doubts most of her friends have gone through. "People do make mistakes and they do write bad checks from time to time and things can happen, but you never expect them to happen."

The judge has given Spence until February 4th to make the original check of $28.85 good, plus pay an additional $50 in other fees associated with the bad check charge.

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