More often than not, a consumer does not bounce a check with criminal intentions. Instead, the consumer usually does so simply by accident. The consumer will then pay the bounced check fee to their financial institution, as well as to the company they wrote the bad check to, and move on. However, when a consumer purposely bounces a check or knowingly writes a check that will not clear, can they go to jail for their actions?
Understanding the Legal Issues of Bad Checks
There are criminal penalties under Florida law for writing bad checks, but these laws only apply to individuals that continue to bounce checks – not when a consumer bounces a single check. When multiple bad checks are written, and on purpose, the individual could face criminal and civil penalties. Here is a quick breakdown of the two:
- Civil – The individual may be forced to pay the victims (that is, the individuals who received the bad checks) restitution. This amount could include the original amount of the check, attorneys’ fees, and additional funds for any financial hardship the bounced check may have caused the victim.
- Criminal – A person can be prosecuted for writing bad checks, especially if prosecutors can prove that the individual knowingly wrote bad checks with the intent to defraud a person or company.
Bad Checks are Considered Check Fraud
Check fraud is illegal in the United States. If a person is arrested, the prosecution must prove that:
- The individual wrote the bad check with the intent to defraud the check’s recipient,
- The individual knew the check would not clear with their financial institution, and
- The individual did actually write the check (it was not the result of identity theft).
What About Post-Dated Checks?
When a check is post-dated (written for a future date), and the recipient accepts that check knowing that it is post-dated, it is not considered check fraud. An example of this is with payday loan companies. Payday loan companies have been known to tell individuals that if they write a post-dated check and that check bounces, the individual has committed check fraud. They use this statement as a way to scare individuals into paying for past due loans; however, it is not accurate. Payday loans fall under a separate category of loans, and because these companies accept post-dated checks knowing it will not clear, it is not considered check fraud under Florida or federal law. Nevertheless, note that the individual can still be sued in civil court for defaulting on their payday loan.
Have You Been Arrested for Bouncing Checks? Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
Being arrested for check fraud is serious. If you have been arrested for writing bad checks, contact the Law Office of Timothy Armstrong, PA for a no obligation case evaluation. We can explore your legal options today. Get started by calling 904-356-8618 or by filling out an online contact form.