Not everyone writes a bad check -- what Oklahoma statutes call bogus checks -- with the intention of committing fraud. For example, a check you deposited in your account may not have cleared yet, leaving less available funds in your account than you thought when you wrote your rent check. However, Oklahoma law assumes the worst about your intentions. As a result, if you write a check that fails to clear, you have a limited period of time under Oklahoma law to make things right. Otherwise, the person or company to whom you remitted the check can go to the authorities.
The Role of the District Attorney
You have five days from the date your check is returned for insufficient funds to reach out to the payee and make good on it. Otherwise, the payee can turn the bad check over to the District Attorney’s office, along with an affidavit stating the facts of the case. The law takes it for granted that you intended to defraud the payee and wrote the check without intending to pay for the services or merchandise. This is the case even if something went wrong with your bank account and you acted unknowingly. Oklahoma law expects you to monitor your own account to ensure that everything is as it’s supposed to be and adequate funds are there to cover the check you’re writing.
The Bogus Check Restitution Program
Oklahoma instituted its Bogus Check Restitution Program in 1983 as an alternative to criminal charges – it’s up to the DA's office which way it wants to proceed. Under the program, the DA’s Bogus Check Division is authorized to collect the check’s amount from you, plus any bank fees incurred by the payee and an additional $25. If the check was written for a large amount, you may be able to enter into a binding agreement to pay it in installments.
If the DA presses charges against you, penalties depend on how much the check was for. If it was $500 or less, the charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the check was written for an amount between $500 to $999.99, it’s a felony – you risk the same year in jail, but the fine jumps to $5,000. Bogus checks written for $1,000 or more can lead to 10 years in prison. This amount applies to the aggregate total of checks passed. If you write 10 checks for $100, you’re subject to this far stiffer penalty, not a series of 10 misdemeanor charges.
If you write any subsequent bad checks after your first one, your restitution agreement is revoked and you’ll face criminal charges. Judges commonly order restitution as part of criminal convictions as well.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.