Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Oct 10, 2012

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

There are actually two issues at play with passing a bad check. The fact that one may not know an act is a crime when it is (allegedly) committed is not a valid defense. However, in charging someone with a crime, the state must always prove some type of intent to commit that crime.

The most common standard used by courts is “intentional and knowing.” This means that the state must prove a person meant to do the act that resulted in the crime – check fraud in this instance.

Check Fraud

To be charged with passing a bad check, a person had to know that there was not enough money in his or her account to cover the check when presented to a bank or merchant. Knowledge (or intent) that the check was not good when it was written it is an element of the charge. If the person wrote the check believing that there was enough money in the given account to cover it when presented, he or she hasn’t committed a crime because one of the elements of the crime is missing. Ignorance isn’t of the law: it’s of his banking account balance.

If the state cannot prove that the person intended to violate the law, he or she might not be charged for check fraud; however, they can still be held accountable for a civil dispute and required to pay any fees associated with a returned check.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

How to Resolve Passing a Bad Check

If you have accidentally committed an offense, the sooner you make attempts to resolve the situation, the more you demonstrate that you were not intentionally defrauding anyone. For example, if an individual forgot to deposit a payroll check before writing the bad check, realized the error the next day, and immediately tried to restore the merchant’s loss; then his efforts will negate the intent element discussed above. Most people who are trying to steal goods or services with bad checks are not going to make immediate and sincere efforts to make the situation right again.

If it has been a while since the event, and you realize a mistake, you may want to contact an attorney to help you resolve the situation. The more time between the “crime” and your realization of having committed it, the harder it generally is for you to resolve it as a mere accident. However, an attorney may be able to help you get ahead of the criminal charges, or at least resolve them, before they become more serious. The main thing to remember is to not ignore the situation, even if it’s a mistake. Failure to take care of a mistake of this nature only results in more hot water.