Tennessee Laws on Writing Bad Checks

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Tennessee law provides strict criminal and civil consequences for writing bad checks. People who write checks knowing that there are insufficient funds in their accounts may be liable for up to three times the amount of the check. In Tennessee, people can be charged with a felony if the check is over the statutory limit.

Criminal Consequences

Tennessee makes it a crime for someone to knowingly or with fraudulent intent write a check for something while knowing he has insufficient funds to cover the transaction or to stop payment on a check when there was nothing wrong with the services or goods for which the person wrote the check.

Fraudulent Intent

According to the statute, fraudulent intent is inferred if the person no longer had an account with the bank at the time he wrote the check or if he received notice of the bad check and did not pay off the check within 10 days of receiving this notice.


Writing a worthless check is considered a crime of theft in Tennessee. If the check is worth $500 or less, it is considered a Class A misdemeanor. It is a felony to write a worthless check for more than $500.

Filing Charges

The bad check recipient has to notify the person who wrote the check of its dishonor. The bad check writer has 10 days to make good on the check without facing any criminal consequences. After 10 days have passed, the bad check recipient can contact the Hot Check Unit operated by his county's district attorney's office. This unit can file charges against the bad check writer and pursue restitution to get back the money owed to the check's recipient.

Civil Consequences

Under Tennessee law, a person who is sued for a dishonored check can be ordered to pay the full amount of the check, 10 percent annual interest on the face amount of the check, a reasonable service charge, court costs and attorney fees. Additionally, if the court finds fraudulent intent, the person who wrote the check can be ordered to pay three times the amount of the check, up to $500.


  • Under Tennessee law, a person can only choose to pursue a hot check through criminal or civil law, but not both.


  • A person can avoid these consequences by paying the person to whom he gave the check the full amount of the check within 10 days of receiving notice that it was not honored at the bank.