Bad checks, also known as hot checks, are those returned for insufficient funds. If you receive a bad check from someone in Arkansas after providing the check writer with goods or services, you can pursue criminal or civil action against this person. The amount of time to sue or prosecute the person depends on the amount of the specific check and other bad checks that were made around the same time.
Hot Check Laws
Arkansas law criminalizes the act of writing a check in exchange for goods or services when the person who wrote the check has been made aware that there are insufficient funds to cover it. A criminal defendant is presumed to know he has insufficient funds if he received notice from the bank of the insufficient funds to cover a check and failed to cover the check amount and related fees within 30 days of receiving this notice.
For misdemeanor hot checks, the statute of limitations is one year. This means that the prosecutor must file charges within one year of the check being denied for insufficient funds. If the prosecutor waits until after one year has passed, the court will dismiss the case as being outside the statute of limitations and the criminal defendant cannot be convicted of the crime. Felony bad checks have a statute of limitations of three years. Individuals who want to have the prosecutor pursue the action criminally can refer to their county's hot check program.
As an alternative, you can pursue a civil lawsuit against the person who wrote the bad check. He or she must still take action within the time frame set out above. In civil cases, a complaint must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.
Criminal and Civil Penalties
If a person is convicted of a hot check of less than $1,000 in value and it is his first offense, he is guilty of a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a fine of up to $500, jail time of up to 30 days, or both. For a second offense, the maximum fine increases to $1,000 and the maximum jail sentence increases to 90 days. A third or subsequent offense results in a a fine up to $2,000, maximum jail time of up to one year, or both.
Bad checks that are made for $25,000 or more in a single instrument, or in the aggregate within 90 days, can result in a conviction of a Class B felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $15,000. A Class C felony can result if one check is more than $5,000 or the aggregate amount of bad checks drawn within 90 days is more than $5,000, punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000. A Class D felony results when the bad check is more than $1,000 in value or the aggregate of multiple checks is more than $1,000 but less than $5,000 within a 90-day period.
Additionally, the court can require the defendant to pay court costs and order him to pay restitution. Restitution for hot check violations includes twice the value of the check, a collection fee of no more than $25, any fees that the recipient of the check was charged by his financial institution, and reasonable attorney's fees to collect the funds from the check.
Individuals can avoid liability of paying all of the forms of restitution mentioned above if they pay the amount of the bad check, the collection fee of $25 or less and any charges that the recipient of the check was charged by his bank within 15 days of receiving notice of the insufficient funds.