General Question

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

How often does the law actually prosecute people for bouncing checks?

Asked by MyNewtBoobs (19003points) June 6th, 2011

I just found out that writing a bad check is a felony. But I’ve never heard of someone being prosecuted for it, unless it was a lot of checks, and normally with a larger white collar crime scheme. So how often do people actually get in trouble with the law for having a check bounce?

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12 Answers

bkcunningham's avatar

In most areas, it depends on the amount of the check for it to be a felony. People are prosecuted everyday, everywhere for writing bad checks. Even if the amount warrants a lesser charge than a felony, people are prosecuted all the time for this. It is upto the person or representative of the business who the check was written out to to notifiy authorities and get the ball rolling on charges being filed. Of course, there are steps the business or person takes before prosecuting. These steps include running the check through the bank twice and notifying the person who wrote the check that there were insufficient funds and the additional penalties that have accrued. .

marinelife's avatar

All the time. Source

derekfnord's avatar

@marinelife Well, that’s actually just a list of statutes and penalties. It doesn’t actually address the question of how frequently the laws are enforced.

marinelife's avatar


” The number of arrests for fraud in 1999 was approximately 363,800.(4)
* The average time spent in state prisons for first offense fraud convictions in 1999 was 1.58 years.(2)
* The average time spent in state prisons for second offense fraud convictions in 1999 was 1.16 years.(2)
* In 1999, inmates convicted of fraud comprised 4.2% of the state prison populations.(2)”


BarnacleBill's avatar

If you write a bad check for more than $500, a warrant can be taken out against you. Basically, you have two things going against you when you write bad checks. First, theft of goods or services from the person you write the check to, and second, violation of the terms of service with the bank you had the account with. Either one, or both, can take out a warrant to collect funds. If you are a habitual paper hanger, you will do time.

Zaku's avatar

I expect that to be prosecuted as a felony it would be not merely bouncing checks, but doing it intentionally in a way that constitutes fraud (not just bad accounting).

jca's avatar

If you write a bad check, and then make good on it (like either then going and paying cash, or putting money in your account so that if they put the check through again it clears) it’s not a crime.

The crime is in writing the bad check and then doing nothing. When I was younger I wrote some checks here and there that bounced, however, I always either called and then paid cash or ran and put money into checking so the check would clear. Now I have overdraft checking so there are no more worries.

I heard of a local woman who wrote a $5,000 check and bought baby stuff, and then when the check bounced she could not make good on it and ended up in jail.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@marinelife It still doesn’t answer how frequently it’s enforced. 363,800 arrests when the total number of frauds is 400k is quite a high number. 363,800 out of 10 million frauds isn’t. And those stats are just for fraud of all kinds, not specifically bad checks.

john65pennington's avatar

Also, writing a check on a Closed Account, is a felony in addition to any other charges.

perspicacious's avatar

Many jurisdictions now have a “bad check unit” which automatically issues warrants for bad checks. The payee on the check doesn’t even have to press charges.

With the new electronic checking system, don’t write a check without money in the bank to cover it. Checks can clear within an hour of their presentation.

roundsquare's avatar

@BarnacleBill “violation of the terms of service with the bank you had the account with”

That wouldn’t be a criminal prosecution so the state wouldn’t bring charges. It would be a contract violation so the bank would have to sue you. Unless I’m missing something.

bkcunningham's avatar

The large majority of cases would be prosecuted on the local level by county prosecuting attorneys on behalf of the state. Unless there is a data base that compiles all the counties, townships, villages, hamlets, et al in every state in America into a combined tally, you’ll never know “how many.”

I’ve looked for the totals and can’t find any such information. Look at the police blotter for any given town and you’ll see there are many such charges. You can be charged with not only writing a bad check but for passing a bad check and obtaining goods or services by fraud.

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