Legal Ramifications of Issuing Bounced Checks
Bounced checks are bad checks. These checks “bounce” back to the writer from the bank as these are returned because of insufficient funds in the writer’s bank account. When this occurs, the writer of the check could be penalized or incarcerated, depending on the governing laws of the state where the event occurred. Each state has their own regulations regarding the fines and punishments for bounced check writers, and the offense can either be treated as a misdemeanor or a criminal offense, specifically larceny.
Can I go to jail for writing bad checks?
Yes. This is very likely. Still, cases generally undergo trial. During trial, the defendant has to prove or clarify a number of crucial issues such as if he knowingly issued the check to deceive the bank or the person or entity who collected the check. Another issue will be if you still wrote the check knowing that you didn’t have enough funds in your account.
In some bad check cases, people are only fined, while some are both fined and incarcerated. When a bounced check case is considered as a misdemeanor, the penalties are often less. But if it becomes a criminal case, which means that it’s larceny by check, then your fines will be higher and jail time is very likely. In general, what the court will look at will be the amount of the check written. In some places, like Virginia, writing a bad check for $200 is considered as a misdemeanor, while writing a check greater than $200 is considered as a serious offense. In Massachusetts, a bounced check amount of $250 or less is considered as a misdemeanor, but if it’s greater than $250 it’s already a felony. There are other factors that can enhance a misdemeanor and elevate it into a felony, such as the frequency of writing bad checks or the intent of the writer to defraud.
What if I was only unaware that I had insufficient funds?
It is important to check state laws regarding this. In some states, a person who issues a bad check is sent a letter of warning and given a certain period of time to take action. This means that the writer should talk to his bank and settle things in case there was just a misunderstanding. If the writer does not do something to settle the problem with his bank, then criminal charges can be filed against him.
What if I receive a bad check?
Will I also go to jail? Usually, it is the author of the check who will be sued. As long as you were not privy to the intent of the writer and that you are also a victim, you will not go to jail. However, you can be questioned or asked to become a witness against the bad check writer.
If you receive a bad check, you can also report this. You also have the right to track down the author of the check and ask for payment. Authors of bounced checks may also be required to pay civil penalties. Fines range from $50 to more than $500.
Claire Duvall writes for several websites, including ElliotSavitzLaw.com. In case you get accused of larceny by check, seek expert legal help. This could mean incarceration, which is why you need to have the best defense.