In Pennsylvania, there is a big difference between bouncing a check by mistake and intentionally passing a check you know you can’t cover. A bad checks charge means you wrote or passed a check knowing it would not be honored by the financial institution where you have an account. For example, if you wrote a check on a bank account you knew was closed.
If you are arrested or accused of a crime after writing a check in Pittsburgh, this is a type of theft and can lead to serious consequences. However, by working with a lawyer early, you can reduce the impact and work to resolve the matter favorable. You don’t have to simply accept a theft conviction.
Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 today. We are available 24/7 and offer free initial consultations. We’ll review the situation and explain what comes next.
Pennsylvania Bad Checks Law
A person can be charged with passing a bad check if he or she:
- Issues a check or similar order for payment, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee
- Issues a check or similar order for payment, knowing that it will not be honored when the drawee is located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania*
* If you are charged with passing a bad check, you will not have a defense if any of the acts occurred outside the Commonwealth.
It is presumed that the person knows that issuing or passing the check will not be paid if:
- Payment was refused because the person who wrote the check had no such account with the drawee (bank or other source of funds) at the time the check or order was issued, or
- Payment was refused for lack of funds, upon presentation within 30 days of issue, and the person who wrote the check failed to make good within 10 days.
Notice of refusal can be given to the person who wrote the check orally or in writing. Proof that notice was sent by registered or certified mail, regardless of whether a receipt was requested or returned, to the address printed on the check or, if none, then to the issuer’s last known address, shall raise a presumption that the notice was received.
A check or order stamped “NSF” or “insufficient funds” presumes that payment was refused for lack of funds. A check or order stamped “account closed” or “no such account” or “counterfeit” presumes that payment was refused because the person who wrote the check had no such account with the drawee at the time the check or order was issued.
Penalties for Passing Bad Checks
Passing a bad check is a summary offense if it is for less than $200. You can be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine.
It is a misdemeanor of the third degree if the check is $200 or more but less than $500. You can be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.
If the check or order is $500 or more but less than $1,000, then it is a misdemeanor of the second degree. You can be sentenced to up to two years in jail and a fine up to $5,00.
A check or order of $1,000 or more but less than $75,000 is a misdemeanor of the first degree. You can be sentenced to up to five years in jail and a fine up to $5,000.
It is a felony of the third degree if the check or order is $75,000 or more. If convicted, you can be sentenced to up to seven years in jail and a fine up to $15,000.
For a third or subsequent offense within a five-year period, regardless of the check amount, you can be charged with a felony of the third degree and sentenced to up to seven years in jail and a fine up to $15,000.
Passing a Bad Check: Reimbursement
If you are found guilty of passing bad checks, you will also have to reimburse the payee. Additionally, you will be required to pay interest and the service charges due to the bank/drawee.
Bad Checks & Future Employment
If you have a bad checks charge on your criminal record, it can easily be seen by any potential employer who does a background check. Businesses do not want to hire someone who might steal from them, and theft of any kind on your record will make them wary of employing you. In particular, it will be hard for you to get a job in banking, government, or as a cashier.
What to Do if You’re Charged with Passing Bad Checks
If you have been charged with passing bad checks, your first step should be to immediately hire a lawyer. When you meet with your lawyer, tell them everything that happened both before and during your arrest. If you did not write a bad check intentionally, give your attorney as much information as possible to substantiate it.
Why You Need a Lawyer’s Help
Your attorney can work to demonstrate that you did not intentionally write a bad check. By showing you did not “knowingly” try to issue a check that wouldn’t be honored, you can resolve the matter in your favor through a dismissal, If the case still moves forward, your attorney can negotiate to reduce the charge to a lesser misdemeanor depending on the amount, and otherwise lessen the impact to your life. in some cases, you may be eligible for a diversion program that may lead to an eventual dismissal and possible expungement by completing some prearranged terms.