It is easy to say that anyone charged with writing a bad check was simply trying to get something for nothing. However, the circumstances of many accused of this offense are far more complicated. Anytime financial matters are raised in a criminal case, matters get more complex. Knowingly writing a check linked to an insufficient account is a criminal offense in Florida. It can also be embarrassing to face such charges. No matter what your situation, you should know the serious nature of bad check charges.
Florida Law and Bad Checks: What You Should Know
There are a multitude of criminal charges related to writing bad checks. These crimes essentially amount to theft and/or fraud. Under Florida, there is a distinct difference between writing a check with insufficient funds and knowingly doing just that. In fact, the check drafter’s knowledge of what they are doing is what makes this a crime. In other words, you must purposefully try to make a false payment through a worthless check. Payments include purchases of goods, services, or “other things of value,” according to state law.
Today, few people actually use hard copies of checks. You may write a check to your utility company, but how often are you actually writing a check? Does the state law literally only apply to checks? Actually, in this regard Florida law has caught up to modern times. The same law applies to using a worthless debit card. Knowingly making a purchase with a debit card linked to an insufficient bank account is also prohibited under the bad checks law. Actually, using any type of “commercial paper” like a check, debit card, draft, etc. will fall under this law.
The level of offense for writing a worthless check will be determined by the amount involved:
- 1st offense where the check amount is less than $150.00 – 1st degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a 1-year jail sentence
- 1st offense where the check amount is more than $150.00 – 3rd degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison
In addition to a jail or prison sentence, a bad check conviction will appear on your criminal record. This can be especially important if you apply for jobs handling sensitive information, such as financial records. Having a criminal record may also affect your educational opportunities.
Defending a Bad Check Charge
Whatever the situation of your case, it is important to defend yourself against the charges. A lot is at stake in your case, even for a first-time misdemeanor offense. There are a number of commonly used defenses for bad check criminal charges. One helpful defense is that the check writer actually did not know about their insufficient funds. Other factors important to determining whether the case should be prosecuted and possible defenses include the following:
- Whether the check was delivered by a person other than the check writer
- Whether the check was incompletely filled out or was illegible
- The check was not deposited within a timely fashion (typically 30 days)
- The check only had one signature, even though two signatures were required
- The recipient knew or had reason to know that the check writer had deficient funds in the bank to honor the check
- Whether a certified letter was mailed to the check writer notifying the check writer that the check was returned
- Whether the person who took the check can identify the check writer by prior knowledge or acquaintance with the check writer, personal recollection of the check writer from the time the check was received, personal data recorded on the check, or personal data recorded on a check cashing card, contract, etc.
- Whether a photograph was made of the person writing the check
- Whether the check holder had ever received a bad check from the person before
- The check was post-dated
Writing a check or using a debit card linked to an insufficient account is a common mistake. Prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly wrote the bad check or used a worthless debit card. An experienced defense attorney can craft the best defense for your unique circumstances.
Former Prosecutors Defend Bad Check Charges
At Moses and Rooth, our attorneys know what it takes to successfully defend against a bad check charge. While no attorney can ever guarantee an acquittal, we always strive to give our clients excellent legal representation and advice. Contact our Orlando criminal lawyers now to schedule a free initial consultation.