Under Section 750.131/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-750-131) of Michigan law, presenting a check or bank draft is illegal when you know that sufficient funds don't exist to cover the payment. Writing checks on closed or nonexistent accounts is also illegal. The penalties depend on the check amounts, how many you write and whether the recipient pursues civil action to recover his loss.
Checks of $100 or Less
Writing bad checks of $100 or less is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 maximum fine and 93 days of county jail time, or both. For one or more prior convictions, the offense is still classified in Section 750.131 as a misdemeanor, but the maximum fine and jail time increase to $1,000 and one year, respectively.
Read More: What Are Hot Checks?
Checks of $100 to $499
Penalties for bad checks of $100 to $499 depend on criteria outlined in Section 750.131. A first or second offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year of county jail time. A judge could also order you to pay a $1,000 maximum fine or three times the check amount, whichever is greater. The charge is a felony for offenders with two or more convictions. In that case, you can expect a $2,000 maximum fine and up to two years in prison. However, prior bad check convictions aren't counted for sentencing purposes.
Checks of $500 or More
Bad check amounts of $500 or more are felonies that mandate a two-year minimum person term, according to Section 750.131. You could also be fined up to $2,000 or three times the check amount, whichever is greater. A prosecutor can also pursue felony charges if you pass three or more bad checks in 10 days or you write checks at a bank where you don't have an account. Offenders face up to two years in prison, a $500 maximum fine or both. A prosecutor may also seek an enhanced sentence, based on one or more prior convictions, which requires a separate hearing before a judge.
Section 600.2952 of the Michigan Penal Code allows bad check recipients to seek civil damages and costs. The process starts with a notice requesting full payment within five to seven days, plus a $25 processing fee. If you don't pay within 30 days, the fee is $35. Failure to respond allows the check holder to file a civil suit against you. If the victim wins, you become liable for the full check amount, plus $250 in costs. You may also have to pay civil damages of up to twice the check amount, or $100, whichever is greater.
Bad Check Defenses
Two basic options exist for fighting a bad check charge. You can argue that you didn't intend to write a bad check, because you really believed the money was in your account, asserts Michigan criminal defense attorney David J. Kramer. The prosecutor must prove otherwise. You can also try striking a deal -- such as making restitution on a payment plan -- in exchange for the recipient dropping the charges.
Bad Check Recovery Units
Many Michigan counties offer Bad Check Recovery Units for victims who don't want to deal with the court system. Eligibility depends on each unit's specific guidelines. For example, the Calhoun County Bad Check Recovery/Diversion Program won't accept checks that a financial institution didn't process or checks that lack an amount, date or signature. If a case meets the criteria, the unit's office may propose to have you settle it by paying the check amount. This approach helps you avoid a criminal record and spares the check holder a lengthy collection effort.
- Calhoun County Bad Check Recovery/Diversion Program:
- Michigan Legislature: Michigan Penal Code: Section 600.2952
- Michigan Legislature: Michigan Penal Code: Section 750.131
- Michigan Legislature: Michigan Penal Code: Section 750.131a
- Michigan Legislature: Michigan Penal Code: Section 750.132: Evidence of Intent
- The David J. Kramer Law Firm, PLLC: How to Beat a Bad Check Charge in Michigan
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.