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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Issuing A Bad Check

By Spodek Law Group | October 18, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 07:25 pm


Issuing A Bad Check – A Conversational Article

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:

  • Don’t ignore it! Responding quickly gives you the best chance of resolving it without charges.
  • Be polite and explain it was an honest error, not intentional fraud.
  • Offer to make good by paying the amount owed right away.
  • Ask if they will agree not to pursue criminal charges as you fix the problem.
  • Get any agreement to resolve the matter in writing.
  • Consult a lawyer if you are contacted by police – don’t talk to them without counsel.
  • In court, a defense like insufficient funds unknowingly or bank error may defeat criminal intent.
  • Don’t try to hide assets or leave town – that makes you seem guilty!

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:

  • No duh, but don’t write a check if you know funds aren’t there!
  • Record every transaction and balance your checkbook regularly.
  • Don’t cut it close – wait until deposits fully clear before writing checks against them.
  • Leave a buffer in your account in case of timing issues.
  • Avoid check writing altogether – use cash, debit cards, etc. instead.
  • Set up account alerts so you’re notified of low balances.
  • Consider overdraft protection if available from your bank.
  • Shred old checks so no one can steal your routing and account numbers.

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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