You write a check for rent or the electric bill, and a few days later you get hit with an insufficient-funds notice from your bank—possibly along with a fee for overdrawing your account.
What most people don’t realize is that intentionally writing a check with insufficient funds in your account is a crime, namely, check fraud.
Breaking the Fraudulent Check Law, also known as the Bad Check Law, can result in serious penalties if you’re charged and convicted of the crime. Think fines, jail time and a damaged reputation.
Still, don’t lose hope if you or a loved one are facing check fraud charges. You can build a defense, and an experienced defense lawyer may be able to get your case dismissed or your charges reduced.
First things first. Let’s break down how you may have ended up with a check fraud charge in the first place.
Check fraud: the charge
Check fraud is exactly what it sounds like: using a bad check or fake check to pay for goods or services.
However, check fraud is a crime of intent. Therefore, you have to knowingly use a bad or fraudulent check with the intention of defrauding or cheating a person or merchant out of the money you owe them in order to be convicted of check fraud.
Specifically, check fraud can involve any of the following when it involves a check or bank draft for the payment of money or its equivalent:
In check fraud cases, the offender might use the check to pay for anything. That could be rent, a lease payment, groceries, the cell phone bill or daycare tuition, just to name a few examples.
Evidence of check fraud
Check fraud happens in three different ways:
- The offender doesn’t have an account at the bank the checks are for
- The offender has insufficient funds to cover the amount of the check
- The signature on the check is incorrect or incomplete
In check fraud cases, the prosecution only needs prima facie evidence. Prima facie is Latin for “first look,” and means that the evidence looks reasonable enough at first glance to prove that the accused person is guilty. In other words, an open-and-shut case.
Typically in prima facie cases, the defendant must provide proof against the prosecution’s evidence to show that he or she is innocent.
What check fraud looks like
Check fraud is a broad crime that can take many forms. The most common acts of check fraud are:
- Altering the writing on a check
- Creating a fake check
- Forging a signature on a check
- Purposely writing a bad check knowing you don’t have enough money to cover it
- Signing another person’s name to a check
Each of those actions is punishable by law if you’re caught, charged and convicted of check fraud.
Penalties for check fraud convictions
The consequences of a check fraud conviction depend primarily on how much money is at stake. The potential penalties include fines, jail time and court costs.
Check fraud crimes involving less than $1,000 are triable in Magistrate Court. In these cases, the court can dismiss a fraudulent check warrant if the judge determines that dismissing the case is the best course of action.
For the court to dismiss a fraudulent check charge, there are two conditions that must be met. The accused must:
- Provide satisfactory proof of restitution, meaning you paid back the amount of the bad check
- Pay in court costs for each charge the court dismisses
If your case is not dismissed, and you’re convicted of check fraud, you’ll face fines or jail time based on the amount of money of your fraudulent checks.
1st offense: checks for $500 or less
|Between $50 and $200||Up to 30 days|
1st offense: checks for more than $500 but not greater than $1,000
|Between $300 and $500||Up to 30 days|
Defenses to check fraud charges
Just because you’re charged with check fraud doesn’t mean the court will find you guilty. As with any crime, you have the right to fight against the charges.
With the help of an experienced defense attorney, you’ll be better prepared to fight your check fraud charges head-on. Your lawyer will work with you to build a strong defense for your case.
Ready to fight your charges?
If you’re looking at a possible conviction for check fraud charges, hiring a qualified defense attorney will give you an advantage on your day in court.
The legal team at Kent Collins Law will use their knowledge and experience to create a solid defense strategy for your case. We’ll be by your side every step of the way during this challenging time.
Set up a free, in-person consultation to discuss your case with a lawyer. Call our office today at 803-808-0905. Or complete this online form, and we’ll be in touch soon.