Under Florida law, it is a criminal offense if an individual issues a check to a merchant and later stops payment on the check intended to defraud him or her. This is different than the criminal offense of obtaining goods or services from a check that is worthless.
The most common defense to this offense is that the person cancelled the payment of the check for valid reasons and had no intention of defrauding the merchant at the time the check was written.
If the check is written out to be less than $150, then the offense is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor which can be punishable by 60 days in prison or six months of probation. If the check is written out for $150 or more, then the crime is deemed a third-degree felony which carries with it a punishment of up to five years in jail.
Florida Law Governing a Fraudulent Check Offense
Under Florida Statute Section 832.041, [w]hoever, with intent to defraud any person shall, in person or by agent, make, draw, utter, deliver, or give any check, draft, or written order for the payment of money upon any bank, person, or corporation and secure from such person goods or services for or on account of such check, draft, or written order, whether such goods or services are valued at the amount of such check, draft, or written order or at a greater or lesser value, and who shall, pursuant to and in furtherance of such intent to defraud, stop payment on such check, draft, or written order, shall be deemed to be guilty of a felony of the third degree…”
Worthless Check Charges in Florida
The crime of writing a worthless check, also referred to as “uttering a worthless check,” is considered a “crime of dishonesty,” which can negatively affect your ability to find gainful employment or housing long after the criminal case is over. In many circumstances, the person accused of writing a worthless check is not guilty of a crime. It has to be proven that the accused wrote the check knowing that it was worthless. In most cases, the individual who wrote the check that bounced was under the belief that the check was good. This can occur due to unexpected circumstances or poor money management.
Under Florida law, it is both a civil and criminal offense to issue a check that has insufficient funds or to write a bad check. In fact, it is a misdemeanor or felony in Florida to write a bad check, the specific charge of which depends on the amount the check was written for.
Under Florida Statutes Section 832.05(2)(a), it is a crime for any individual, corporation, or firm to obtain goods, services, or anything else of value by means of a written order, draft, or check that has insufficient funds at the time any of these instruments were deposited.
Criminal Aspects of a Worthless Check
Florida Statute Section 832 governs the prosecution of an individual who writes a worthless check. A person is assumed to have the requisite knowledge of insufficient funds or intent to defraud unless the individual subsequently compensates the payee in the face amount of the check plus any fees that his or her bank imposes, or a service fee pursuant of up to five percent of the face amount of the check, whichever is greater. This must be done within fifteen days after the individual is notified that he or she wrote a back check. This penalty is not imposed on an individual if she or she notified the payee or holder prior to when the check is uttered or drawn.
Civil Aspects of a Worthless Check
A person who receives a bad check, under Florida Statute Section 68.065, can sue for three times the amount of the check, also known as “treble damages.” The payee or holder can also receive a statutory service charge based upon the amount of the check as well as be forced to pay court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
The Criminal Penalties Associated with Writing a Worthless Check in Florida
If an individual writes a check out for less than $150, it is punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor offense, which carries with it a penalty of up to one year in prison, up to twelve months of probation and a monetary fine of up to $1,000. If an individual issues a worthless check in the amount of $150 or more, it is punishable as a third-degree felony offense, which carries with it a penalty of up to five years in prison and a monetary fine of $5,000.
Restitution for Writing a Worthless Check
The prosecution is primarily concerned with restitution immediately paid by the defendant to the victim. If you work with a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney, you can avoid the many consequences that are associated with a writing a bad check charge. Specifically, an attorney can help to work out a plan for restitution to the victim that may help you to avoid a criminal record, as well as money required to be paid for fines and court costs, bond, probation supervision fees, and other costs that are associated with an arrest and prosecution.
Defenses under Florida Statute Section 832.05 for Worthless Checks
The terms of Florida Statute Section 832.05 are imposed when a person knowingly writes a bad check in order to obtain goods or services from another individual or company. Notwithstanding, there are certain defenses to the crime of writing a bad check that a skilled Florida criminal defense lawyer can raise on your behalf, which are:
- It was not known at the time the check was written that there were insufficient funds. Many individuals unknowingly bounce checks because of poor financial management or financial stress. In this case, it is common for the individual who wrote the bad check to believe that there are sufficient funds in his or her account.
- The individual who was written the check should have known or expressly knew that the check was bad. It is a defense in Florida for a person to write a check to another who knew or should have known that there were insufficient funds in the drawer’s account. For instance, if the person who wrote the check asks the payee to hold the check until a certain date or delay depositing it due to insufficient funds, and the individual nonetheless immediately deposits the check, the drawer may not be subject to prosecution under Florida law.
- Checks that are postdated. It is a defense in Florida to a bad check charge if the individual who accepted the check accepts it as postdated. This means that the check will not be good until the date provided on the check. If the payee attempts to deposit the check earlier than the check’s date, the writer of the check may not be subject to prosecution.
- Stopping payment of the check intending to defraud a merchant or individual. If a person who wrote a check soon stopped payment on the check, then the crime cannot be pursued as a worthless check charge under Florida law.
- Forged checks. If a check was forged, it cannot be prosecuted as a worthless check case under Florida law.
- Effect of a Previous Worthless Check. In Florida, the law provides that a person who receives a subsequent check cannot immediately seek the prosecution of an individual who previously wrote a worthless check to him or her.
Subsequently Paying the Amount of the Worthless Check to a Victim May Not Prevent Criminal Charges from Being Pursued
Under Florida law, the payment of a dishonored check, bill of exchange, draft or debit card order does not qualify as a ground for dismissal or defense in a worthless check case. However, if a person immediately pays the individual or merchant the amount of the worthless check, a prosecutor has the discretion to not go forward with the prosecution of the case.
Even if a prosecutor pursues the worthless check case, a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney may decide the drop the charges in exchange for the accused paying restitution to the victim. This may also occur in the event that the defendant successfully raises any of the above-referenced defenses.
At Musca Law, we work tirelessly on behalf of our clients and advise them of their legal rights and options at every stage of their case. We understand that people sometimes make mistakes, or have been unjustly accused of a crime. A strong defense is vital in all criminal cases, which can become very challenging and complex from the beginning.
A knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney at Musca Law knowns the ins and outs of the criminal law process and how to develop the strongest defense possible on behalf of their clients. Experience makes the difference in criminal defense. At Musca Law, our attorneys have handled thousands of criminal cases.
Let us put our experience to work for you. Call our hotline 24/7 at 1 (888) 484-5057.