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Can I Be Prosecuted for “Bouncing” a Check?

A person commits an offense of passing a bad check in Pennsylvania if he issues or passes a check, or similar sight order, for the payment of money, knowing that it will not be honored by the bank drawing on the account. Ostensibly, the critical element in prosecuting a bad-check case is demonstrating the defendant’s intention to deceive the individual receiving the check. When individuals find themselves innocently overdrawing their banking accounts or inadvertently spending more than they have, in writing a check on a slightly overdrawn account, they may simply supplement and restore their account balances, pay an overdraft charge to their bank, and face no serious consequences.

Things can get more complicated in situations where the overdraft amounts are larger, or where prompt action is not taken to reconcile the account once notified of the insufficiency of the funds in the bank account. In such situations, it becomes increasingly difficult to demonstrate that the bad check was issued innocently and inadvertently.

In Pennsylvania, some presumptions govern the prosecution of cases of theft committed by means of a bad check. A person is presumed to know that the check or order (other than a post-dated check or order) would not be paid, if the payment was refused because the person issuing the check had no such account with the bank or financial institution at the time the check or order was issued. Further, if an individual fails to make good on the insufficiency within ten days after receiving notice by the institution that payment was refused by the bank for lack of funds, the law presumes that he intended to deceive the person to whom the check was issued.

An offense of issuing a bad check is a summary offense, if the check or order is for an amount of less than $200. A bad check for an amount of $200 and below $500 constitutes a misdemeanor of the third degree. If the amount of the check is for $500 but less than $1,000, the offense is graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree. It is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree if the check or order is $1,000 or more but is less than $75,000. Finally, the offense is considered a felony of the third degree if the check or order is $75,000 or more.

The effects of such charges are potentially far-reaching. A bad-checks charge on an individual’s criminal record can easily be accessed and viewed by any prospective employer who does a background check, which may significantly impair one’s prospects for employment, especially for jobs requiring security clearances, certain government employment, and work in financial institutions. A conviction for a bad-check charge can compromise one’s reputation, career, and most importantly, one’s freedom.

If you or a loved one are involved in a case in which you are facing charged for passing bad checks, the attorneys at Tanner Law Offices can assist you or your loved ones in the process of defending against such criminal charges and in protecting your rights. Please contact our office at 717-836-0471 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.