CanI be prosecutedfor a felony for havinggiven 6bounced electronic checks to a collection agency?

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CanI be prosecutedfor a felony for havinggiven 6bounced electronic checks to a collection agency?

I had a collection agency contact me regarding a school loan that I didn’t pay. I then arranged for them to pull out $150 payments out of my bank using an electronic check. However, 6 of them bounced over the course of 1 1/2 years. Can they prosecute me with a felony?

Asked on June 10, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, it's the state, not the collections agency that could prosecute you--the agency could report you to the authorities, then the authorities decide if you likely committed a crime. (The collection agency could certainly *sue* you for the money.)

Second, simply being unable to pay, if there was no criminal intent, does not make one criminally liable (though again, you can be sued for the money). To oversimplify, the issue is whether you intended to pay at the time you made the check/authorized the electonric check/etc., and simply had some bad luck or problem...or whether you never intended to pay.

Unfortunately for you, 6 bounced checks over 1 1/2 years is difficult to explain as simply being the result of hard times, back luck, etc.--at some point, you *should* have been able to get the creditor  the funds. The facts you describe may provide evidence from which someone could conclude you never intended to pay, which would support criminal prosecution.


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