Most of us have found ourselves struggling to deal with a bounced check. When you’re on the receiving end of a bounced check, the situation is frustrating. We rant and rave about how the person is irresponsible and how they need to manage their finances.
When you’re the person who wrote the bad check, you feel embarrassed and become extremely stressed.
The simple truth is that in most situations, the bounced check is an honest mistake. Something went wrong when you balanced your checkbook, or a deposit was delayed. These things happen. In most cases, the person/business who received the check won’t file charges provided you quickly rectify the situation and pay an additional fee.
However, if the check is large enough, if you have a history of writing bad checks, or if there’s evidence that indicates you knew the funds wouldn’t be available when you wrote the check, you will likely find yourself facing criminal charges.
If you write a check for more than $950 while knowing the funds won’t be available, you can be charged with felony check fraud. If the amount is less than $950, you can still be charged for writing bad checks, but you’ll be facing a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
In order to secure a conviction, the prosecution has to prove that you knew that there was insufficient funds in the checking account and/or that you fully intended to defraud the check’s recipient. Solid defenses that have been used in cases involving bad checks include:
• That the defendant didn’t plan on defrauding the victim
• The check was post-dated and cashed early
• The defendant realized that there was a problem, alerted the victim who tried cashing the check anyway
If convicted of misdemeanor check fraud, the maximum sentence is one year in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine. A felony conviction carries a maximum sentence of a $10,000 fine and/or three years in a state prison.
In cases involving a bad check, many victims choose not to file criminal charges, instead opting to pursue civil litigation in an attempt to get the money they’re owed. Current California laws state that you must provide the check writer with 30 days to pay the money they owe you before you’re allowed to file the civil case.