Bouncing a check is embarrassing—and usually comes with a fee assessed by the payee or your bank. But even if you accidentally wrote a bad check, these fees and the accompanying embarrassment might not be the only thing you face. Writing a bad check is considered check fraud when the person who writes the check knows that there are insufficient funds to cover it, and this type of fraud has serious penalties associated with it beyond bank fines and apologies. Because check fraud involves a type of theft—the issuer of the check is purchasing a good or service without providing valid payment—it is treated as a serious crime in New Jersey and across the country.
New Jersey Check Fraud Statute
According to the New Jersey Check Fraud Statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-5, any person who issues a bad check as payment can be charged with check fraud if there is reason to believe that the person issued the check knowing that it would not be honored. In order to be charged with criminal activity, the person who issues the check must know that the check or money order would not have sufficient funds, and could not be used for payment. Below are a few of the ways in which a person would be aware that a check couldn’t be paid:
- The issuer does not have an account at the bank at which he or she draws the check.
- The issuer’s account balance does not support the amount of the check, and the issuer has no plans to fund the account.
- The check payment was refused due to a lack of funds, or a closed account, and the issuer was notified, but failed to reissue valid payment.
Degrees and Penalties
As is the case with most monetary fraud crimes, check fraud is penalized according to the amount of money involved—in these cases, the amount of the bad check that has been presented for payment. Check fraud involving payments less than $200 is considered a disorderly persons offense, and a person who passes a check at this amount could be penalized with as much as six months behind bars.
As the amounts increase, however, the penalties increase as well. A bad check written for anywhere from $200-$1,000 can result in up to 18 months in jail, as fourth-degree check fraud. Third-degree check fraud covers any amount from $1,000-$75,000, and can lead to a three- to five -year prison sentence. For checks written for $75,000 or more, the issuer will face a second-degree check fraud charge that could result in five to ten years in a state prison.
Six months for a $200 bad check may seem like a long time, but in light of the penalties for higher dollar amounts, it’s a fairly lenient sentence. Check fraud is a huge deal, and even after a jail sentence is served, the stigma of passing a bad check can remain on your record for decades.
If you’ve been charged with check fraud for passing a bad check, you need the help of an experienced Morristown criminal defense lawyer. Scott Gorman, of The Gorman Law Firm, can help you mount a defense against these charges. Contact Mr. Gorman today for a consultation on your case.
Published in Categories: Criminal Defense