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Is Paying by Check with Knowledge of Insufficient Funds a Crime in Florida?

Many of us have written checks to pay for goods and services knowing that at the time the check was written, the amount to cover the value of the transaction wasn't available in our checking account. However, this by itself is not a crime in the State of Florida if the issuer of the check had the intention to cover the sum of the check written before it was offered for payment by the person or entity that was to be paid by it to the financial institution.

A simple example of this would be if you wrote a check for a specified amount on a given weekday, knowing that your employer would make a direct deposit of your wages or salary within the next few days. Of course, in this case, there was an assumption made on your part that the necessary funds would be available by the time the check was presented for payment.
But for whatever reason, that transfer of funds by your employer didn't go through and the check you wrote was returned (bounced check).

So, did you commit a crime by writing a worthless check? By definition, under Chapter 832.05 of the Florida Statutes technically, you most certainly did.

On first appearance evidence (prima facie evidence), the check was written with your explicit knowledge that the funds were not in your account. But if the person or entity you wrote the check to was aware of this situation, or if you postdated the check and it was cashed by the recipient before the written date, it cannot be prosecuted as a crime.

But you are still responsible for payment and you will be liable for any fees tacked on by the bank that refused payment due to insufficient funds.

All states have a specified time schedule when a matter such as described above must be resolved. While most states allow a time period of ten to thirty days for resolution of the matter, Massachusetts limits the time element to a mere two days. Florida allows seven. Once that time period expires, the state can choose to charge you with a misdemeanor if the amount in question is less than $150 or even a felony if it is more than that amount.

In Broward County, the State Attorney's Office holds writing bad checks very seriously, yet offers first time offenders "the opportunity to avoid criminal prosecution".

But the main ingredient that is missing from the example above presuming it is resolved within the seven days which would actually make it a crime is the intent to defraud.

If you are arrested and charged with writing a bad check with intent to defraud, it is imperative to contact a Fort Lauderdale Financial Crimes Attorney to properly guide you through the handling of this serious allegation.

In cases where criminal charges are filed they can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the charge. The Statute clearly explains the differences.

In addition to the monetary amount of $150, there are other considerations that may cause what appears to be a felony charge get knocked down to a misdemeanor.

Issuing a bad check at the point of sale is a critical variable when attempting to try a case as a felony. Basically, if a check is issued to purchase something or acquire a service at the point of sale with a value over $150, the case can be tried as a third degree felony.

But for example in a case where a contractor is hired and upon completion of their work a check is issued that bounces and a prosecutor decides to pursue charges it would most likely be tried as a misdemeanor even if the check exceeded the $150 threshold.

Additionally, if a check was written to pay off a past debt for goods or services, a prosecutor would most likely proceed to charge the case as a first degree misdemeanor as well.

Even so, a first degree misdemeanor still can carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, plus restitution for the amount in question or even more than the original amount of the transaction. It will also appear on your record and could be damaging when seeking employment or housing.

A third degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. And to make matters worse, if you've been convicted of a previous felony the jail time and monetary penalty can go much higher. A conviction for a third felony can be harsher yet and if the prior felony convictions were for violent crimes, a current conviction for a third felony could be devastating.

If you are charged with this crime and you believe the prosecution has the ability of proving that you had knowledge of insufficient funds at the time of the transaction as well as the intent to defraud it is crucial that you seek the counsel of a skilled Fort Lauderdale Financial Crimes Attorney to assist you in laying out all possible options and effectively defend your rights. Michael B. Cohen's experience in these matters can be the key to your successful defense.

To find out more about Mr. Cohen and find out the next steps that should be taken contact him to set up a free case evaluation and individual consultation. Mr. Cohen is available for immediate help with all criminal matters seven days a week, twenty four hours a day including weekends and holidays.