Charged with Fraud for Writing Bad Checks?
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help with Check Fraud Cases
Bad checks are any money orders you write for an account that either does not exist or does not have enough funds to cover the amount. Sometimes, bad checks can result from an honest mistake instead of an outright attempt to defraud a bank or business. If one of your checks bounces, meaning that the bank refuses payment due to insufficient funds, then you may face additional fees and penalties. However, if you have a history of bad checks or do not pay after a bounced check, then you may eventually face criminal charges.
A criminal conviction could result in steep fines or jail time and could affect your credit report and future opportunities. However, the criminal defense attorneys at the Spevack Law Firm can help you fight back against fraud charges. Many of our lawyers are former prosecutors, which means they understand how the prosecution will approach your case and how to defend against these tactics. Call a lawyer from our criminal defense law firm today to learn how we can help.
What Happens If I Write a Bad Check?
One bounced check will not automatically result in criminal charges. Usually, you will have ample time to address the problem and avoid more serious consequences. When you write a check or pay with a debit card and there is not enough money in your account to cover the amount, the first thing that typically happens is that the bank will refuse payment. The bank will notify you that your check bounced, and it will probably charge you a fee. The check will also be sent back to the person or business who tried to cash it.
At that point, the business or person must notify you that they have not received payment. A store will often charge extra fees for a bounced check. After receiving this notice, you then have 10 business days to make a payment and settle the debt. You may end up paying more than the original check with the fees. Furthermore, the business may bar you from paying by check for a certain length of time. However, you will likely avoid criminal charges.
If you do not or cannot pay back the money from a bounced check, then the person or company you owe can make a report to the District Attorney’s office. Depending on the cash value of the check and whether you have a history of writing bad checks, you may be charged with check fraud.
Can I Go to Jail for Writing Bad Checks?
Check fraud is a crime under New Jersey law. However, there must be evidence that you knowingly passed bad checks intending to defraud a person or company. This means that if you made an honest mistake and thought you had enough money to cover the check, then it is unlikely you will receive criminal charges. On the other hand, forging a check, writing a check for a nonexistent account and/or writing a check you know will bounce can all be grounds for a criminal case. The different kinds of criminal charges you may face in New Jersey include:
- Disorderly persons charge. Writing a bad check worth less than $200 is a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor). Penalties include a fine up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
- Crime of the Fourth Degree. If the check’s value is between $200 and $1,000, you could risk up to 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
- Crime of the Third Degree. You could face 5 years of jail time and $15,000 in fines for checks between $1,000 and $75,000.
- Crime of the Second Degree. Writing bad checks over $75,000 could result in 10 years of jail time and up to $150,000 in fines.
Check fraud may also be a federal crime if the government considers it to be counterfeiting, which means altering or creating a check in a false name. The penalties for a federal crime like this include up to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
The statute of limitations for check fraud depends on the severity of the charge. By New Jersey state law, the recipient of a bad check should report it within 90 days. However, the statute of limitations for federal and state check crimes is up to five years.
What are the Defenses for Criminal Charges for Bad Checks?
If you are facing criminal charges for writing a bad check, a defense attorney may be able to help you get the charges reduced or dropped. Often, a business may fail to follow the correct collection procedure, or you may have made an honest mistake. Possible defenses against check fraud charges include:
- Your check was not cashed within 30 days.
- The check did not have the correct signatures.
- The check recipient agreed to hold the check for a certain period of time before cashing it but did not.
- You did not receive notice the check bounced.
- You postdated the check. Postdating means that, when filling out the check, you wrote a future date instead of the current date. This is allowable as long as the recipient agrees. If the recipient tries to cash the check before the written date, then you may not be liable if it bounces.
If any of these circumstances apply to your case, your criminal defense lawyers may be able to file a motion to dismiss your case entirely. Otherwise, you could reach a plea deal with the prosecution. For example, you may agree to a fine in return for getting your charges dropped or reduced to a disorderly persons offense.
Facing Charges for Bad Checks? Contact our Criminal Defense Attorneys
A criminal conviction can cost you more than jail time. With a criminal record, you may be denied employment and housing opportunities in the future. However, the criminal defense attorneys from the Spevack Law Firm can help. We have almost 90 years of experience representing residents throughout New jersey, including in Middlesex, Union and Monmouth Counties. We can answer your questions about criminal charges, the statute of limitations on bad checks and any other defense matters.
Contact us online or call one of our offices in Iselin or New Brunswick to schedule a free consultation with a criminal lawyer today.