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Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 07:25 pm
We’ve all been there – you write a check, expecting money to come in to cover it, but then the deposit doesn’t hit in time and boom, you’ve written a bad check. It happens more often than you’d think, but it can lead to big trouble if you’re not careful. Let’s break down what happens when you issue a bad check, the laws around it, and how to avoid getting in hot water if you make this common mistake.
First up, what exactly is a bad check? Well, it’s just what it sounds like – a check written against a bank account that doesn’t have sufficient funds to cover the amount. Some other names for these include bounced checks, rubber checks, or non-sufficient funds (NSF) checks. The money isn’t there, but you wrote the check anyway. Oops!
Now, writing one accidental bad check probably won’t land you in prison. But consistently writing bad checks can get you in legal trouble. Most states have laws against writing bad checks, often called “check fraud statutes.” These laws make it illegal to knowingly write a bad check. The reason is that it’s a form of fraud – you are getting goods or services in exchange for a check you know won’t clear. Not cool.
Check fraud laws vary by state, but often they make it a misdemeanor or felony crime to intentionally write a bad check. The amount of the check and how many bad checks you’ve written can impact the severity. In Texas, for example, writing a bad check under $20 is a Class C misdemeanor, but if the check is for $500 or more it becomes a felony. And if you have multiple prior convictions, the crime level goes up.
The penalties if convicted of check fraud can include fines, probation, and even jail time in severe cases or for repeat offenders. The merchant you wrote the bad check to can also pursue civil penalties like treble damages (making you pay 3x the amount) in some states. Nasty stuff.
One important legal nuance is that intent matters. If you made an honest mistake, like you recorded a deposit wrong in your check register, you’re probably not going to be convicted of fraud. Prosecutors have to prove you knew the check would bounce and wrote it intentionally. Of course, if you have a pattern of bad checks, intent becomes easier to establish.
The merchant you wrote the bad check to also has options like sending the check to collections or reporting it to ChexSystems, which could make it very hard for you to open a new bank account. They can also file a civil lawsuit against you to recover the money, even if prosecutors don’t pursue criminal charges.
The moral of the story? Be very very careful about writing checks without sufficient funds. Even one bad check can start a whole mess of trouble. Monitor your account balance closely so you know what’s available. If you do make a mistake, be proactive in contacting the merchant and making it right. Apologize, pay them back promptly, and ask if they will agree not to pursue further action. Being open goes a long way.
Still, mistakes happen. And merchants sometimes deposit checks faster than expected. So what can you do if you face allegations of writing a bad check? Here are some tips:
Dealing with bad checks can be complicated, especially if the amounts are large or you face multiple allegations. Don’t go it alone – get advice from a lawyer experienced in financial crimes and check fraud accusations. They can help negotiate settlements, raise defenses, and make sure your rights are protected.
A few final tips on how to avoid bad check problems in the first place:
Following these simple precautions can help avoid accidental bad checks. And if you do make a mistake, being upfront and making it right can hopefully resolve the matter without criminal charges or other headaches. We’ve all messed up our checkbook before – just learn from it and be more careful moving forward. Your bank account will thank you!
Well, that wraps up this conversational look at the common problem of bad checks. Let me know if you have any other money mishaps you’d like me to cover! And may your checks never bounce again. 🙂
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