Writing a check with the knowledge that there are insufficient funds in the bank account to cover the amount and subsequently making it “bounce”– is a crime in Florida known as check fraud. Depending on the value of the check written, punishment may be a misdemeanor resulting in less than a year of jail time or a third-degree felony resulting in more serious sentencing.
Attorney Ron D. Herman, principal attorney at Herman Law, P.A., is a former prosecutor and expert in white-collar crime defense. Attorney Herman’s experience and knowledge of prosecutorial tactics give him the ability to protect your interests to the fullest extent of the law. If you are facing criminal charges for check fraud, Attorney Herman will evaluate your case and work with you to create a plan to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
What is check fraud?
Florida statute provides that it is illegal for any person, firm, or corporation to draw, make, utter, issue, or deliver a check with the knowledge that the account the check is being drawn upon has insufficient funds to pay the amount presented.
Check fraud occurs when a person writes a check his or her bank account does not contain funds to cover. For example, writing a $50 check to a grocery store for the purchase of groceries with the knowledge that the account the check is written on only contains $20 constitutes check fraud.
Florida statute does not classify certain scenarios as fraudulent. For instance, the check fraud statute does not apply when the party receiving the check knows or has been expressly notified that the payer’s account does not have sufficient funds to cover the check. Accordingly, if a person expressly says “don’t cash this check until next Tuesday,” he or she will not be liable for check fraud. However, the check writer must expressly provide notice that a check will not be good until a certain date. A creditor’s receipt of a bad check in the past from the defendant does not constitute giving express notice that a check should not be deposited until a future date.
Additionally, the check fraud statute does not apply to any postdated check.
What is the punishment for writing a bad check?
If the value of the check is less than $150, writing a bad check is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by no more than 1 year in jail or a $1,000 fine.
If the value of the check is more than $150, writing a bad check is a third-degree felony, punishable by no more than 5 years in prison or a $5,000 fine. If a defendant qualifies as a habitual offender pursuant to Florida Statute section 775.084, the minimum prison sentence may be 5 years and maximum sentence may be 10 years.
Are there any defenses?
The Florida statute explicitly states that a later payment of the dishonored check is not a defense to the crime or grounds for dismissal of the charges.
A key element of the crime is that the check must be presented with knowledge that a bank account has insufficient funds to cover the check amount. While courts may presume a defendant had knowledge of the amount of funds in his or her account, a defendant may rebut this presumption. For instance, if an unexpected bill is automatically drafted from a bank account or a check deposited by the defendant fails to clear, the defendant is likely unaware there were insufficient funds. The existence of overdraft protection might also serve as a defense.
The statute of limitations is also a defense in Florida. Prosecution for third-degree felonies must be brought within 3 years after the act and prosecution for a first degree misdemeanor must be brought within 1 year of the act. As with all criminal cases, the specific facts of your situation will determine whether there are any viable defenses to the elements of the crime.
What other crimes are related to writing a bad check?
In addition to being criminally responsible for writing a bad check, you can also be prosecuted for cashing a fraudulent check and obtaining property or services based on a bad check.
Cashing a Fraudulent Check
It is a crime for any person, firm or corporation to cash or deposit a check with the intent to defraud. For example, a defendant might obtain a blank check from a third party, make the check out and sign it, and attempt to cash it against the bank account. Filling in the check and forging a signature is a fraudulent act intended to induce a bank into exchanging the check for cash. Cashing a fraudulent check is a third-degree felony, punishable by no more than 5 years in prison or a $5,000 fine.
Obtaining Property or Services in Return for a Bad Check
Similar to writing a bad check, it is also unlawful to obtain property in exchange for the bad check. Such an act is only a crime if done with the knowledge that there were insufficient funds to cover the check amount. If the amount of the check is less than $150, the crime is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by no more than 1 year in jail or a $1,000 fine. If the amount of the check is greater than $150, the crime is a third-degree felony, punishable by no more than 5 years in prison or a $5,000 fine.
Consequences of a Conviction
A conviction for writing a bad check has serious consequences. First, it is a crime of fraud or dishonesty. Most potential employers ask about any specific crimes of fraud or dishonesty in the application process, so a conviction could immediately disqualify you for employment, even if it is only a misdemeanor. Second, the conviction itself can be a felony, making it more difficult to obtain a job, housing, or even partake in higher education programs.
Contact Our West Palm Beach Check Fraud Attorney
If you are involved in an investigation or criminal prosecution for writing a bad check you should contact Herman Law, P.A. as soon as possible. Attorney Ron D. Herman will schedule a free consultation and walk you through the criminal procedures involved. When you choose to hire Herman Law, P.A. you are putting yourself in the hands of a trusted and experienced advisor who will ensure your rights are protected.