What is Check Fraud
There are a number of different cases where someone maybe charged with check fraud. Check fraud is essentially a specific instant of fraud, which is covered by its own statute. Like other fraud charges check frauds is a specific intent crimes, which means the person charged has to intend to commit the crime.
Worthless Checks are probably the most common kinds of check fraud. Check Fraud is defined by F.S. 832.05, which essentially says that it is unlawful to pass a check knowing that there are insufficient funds in the bank to cover the check. While worthless checks are the most common ways in which the crime is committed, the statute has been extended to drafts on the account and debit cards.
Writing a worthless check is first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. However if the check is for more than $150, and you received property in return for the check, and the check was for more than $150 then the prosecutor can charge the worthless check as a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
There are a number of defenses to the crime of worthless check. This charge can sometimes present a number of challenges for the prosecutor, since checks are generally taken in the course of business with the prosecutor and witnesses not really having any knowledge about the circumstances of the allegations. Such defenses include that the defendant was not the person who wrote the check. Another common defense is that the person writing the check did not know there were insufficient funds in his account to cover the check (i.e. bad book keeping isn’t criminal). The last common defense is that the check was post dated. By statute a post dated check is a defense, which makes sense because someone who post dates a check is essentially saying I don’t have the money in my account now, but I should be there at this date. Just because a defendant couldn’t come up with the money doesn’t mean he was trying to defraud anyone.
Alternatives to Prosecution
Pursuant to F.S. §832.10 the prosecutors office may (and often does) elect to pursue the charges through a diversion program. Prosecutors often use this program when they receive a worthless check, which allows the defendant to pay the check and certain fees associated with the check by a certain time in exchange for the prosecutor to not file charges, or dismiss the charges if they have been filed.