Is a stop payment on a check considered a criminal or civil offense?

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Is a stop payment on a check considered a criminal or civil offense?

My daughter found the wedding dress she wanted at a store. We signed a contract whereby we gave a check for 50% deposit and signed an agreement that said we would pay the rest when the dress came in. After we left, we heard some things about the store and decided not to buy the dress there. We went the very next morning and asked for the check back. The store owner was rude and said no. They had not ordered the dress, so we put a stop payment on the check. Now we have received a notice saying we have violated OCGA16-9-20 & 13-6-15. Is this true? We received no merchandise.

Asked on February 5, 2011 under General Practice, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Regarding 2) in my answer: I meant to type "criminal offense."

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) You had a signed contract. That obligated you to pay; you could not cancel simply because you "heard some things about the store." You have committed breach of contract at minimum and may be sued for the amount you agreed to pay. You could also be sued for any costs, such as bounced check or overdraft fee, your actions caused.

2) Stopping payment on a check may also be a criminal defense as well. This depends on the exact circumstances and your intention when you stopped. Given that you had nothing that would possibly serve as a legal valid reason to stop payment, it is possible you also could incur criminal liability.

Once you sign a contract, you *can't* simply change your mind.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

For specifics on how a particular law in your state applies to you you will need to consult with an attorney in your area.  Generally speaking, what you did is known as passing a bad check.  If the store deposited the check and did indeed order the dress the fact that you did not receive any merchandise is incidental.  There was a reliance.  And if the store had a policy regarding refunds or checks posted then you would be expected to refer to it and be held to it.  Yes, there are generally civil and criminal penalties and they can fall under the title of "fraud".  I would take the letter to an attorney to review and to advise you on what your rights and obligations are here.  Good luck to you. 


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