What Are Hot Checks?

Not all worthless checks, hot checks
••• Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Rick Audet

Hot checks, sometimes called bounced checks or bad checks, are checks in which the amount they are written for cannot be collected because of lack of funds in the account. This can be done either accidentally or intentionally. However, not all worthless checks are legally hot checks.

Legal Definition

Most states define a hot check as a worthless check which is exchanged for goods, money or services. Hot checks are not checks which have been forged or altered, however.

Time Frame

Different states have different policies regarding the prosecution of hot checks. However, most demand that in order for a bad check to be prosecutable, it must have been presented to the bank in question for payment within 30 days of being written.


Before filing a bad check with the state attorney general's office, the check writer must be given a notice explaining that their check had resulted in non-sufficient funds and giving them 10 business days to pay the amount. If it has still not been paid within the 10 business days, it can be filed with the state as a hot check.


When filing a hot check with the state attorney general, you must explain for what the check was originally written. If the check was written for illegal activity it cannot be claimed as a hot check, whether it resulted in non-sufficient funds or not.

Not Hot

Some kinds of worthless checks are not considered to legally be hot checks. Checks received through the mail may not be prosecutable as hot checks, and neither are checks for less than $5 and checks more than six months old.

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