Writing Bad Checks In California

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We’ve all had a situation where we didn’t have as much money in our accounts as we thought we did. This can result in a bounced check. As soon as we find out about our mistake we contact the people/business and banks involved in the issue and try to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. Resolving the matter not only usually means covering the original cost with a good check, but also paying some substantial bank overdraft fees.

That situation is completely different from cases that involve writing bad checks. What sets writing an accidental bad check apart from writing a bad check which results in you facing criminal charges is your knowledge about the amount of money you had in the bank at the time you were writing the check.

Making a mistake about the amount of money you have in your account is not a crime in California. Writing a check when you know you don’t have enough money to cover it is a criminal act and will likely be prosecuted.

Cases involving bad checks have changed during the past twenty years. They have actually become harder to defend. In the past, it was believable that a person might think that they had 200 dollars in their checking account when there was only $100 available. Often this happened when they had forgotten about another check they’d written or when a deposit hadn’t yet cleared. These days, banks have mobile apps that allow clients to check exactly how much money is in the checking account at any time of the day. The ability to instantly check the amount of funds available makes it harder to claim ignorance.

Writing bad checks is a wobbler offense. Whether the matter is treated as a misdemeanor or felony depends on the size of the check you wrote. If the amount is more than $950, the case becomes a felony.

A misdemeanor conviction for writing bad checks in California carries a maximum sentence of a year in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The maximum sentence for the felony conviction of this crime is three years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine. It isn’t unusual for community service and probation to be part of the sentence in these types of cases.

Criminal charges for writing bad checks might be only part of your legal headaches. In these situations, the defendant will often file charges in civil court where they can not only seek restitution for the entire amount of the bad check as well as an additional $1,500.