Next New Year's Day could be Big Surprise Day for some Californians. That's the date a new law goes into effect increasing the penalty for writing bad checks - and in a big way.
Up to now, those who have not covered their bogus checks in this state have been faced with a misdemeanor charge (or a felony charge depending on the amount involved).
In addition, under the present system, it has been possible for the check writer to simply repay the amount needed to cover the check.
No more, after Jan. 1.
The new legislation was prompted by a survey by the California Grocers Association that turned up a figure of $444 million in bounced checks in 1982. It will allow the retailer to recover three times the amount of the bad check, enabling him to collect up to $500 (and not less than $100).
The new procedure permits litigation to proceed in small-claims court if a bounced check is not repaid within 30 days after the writer is given certified notification by the retailer.