Florida law specifies that writing a worthless check or stopping payment on a check with intent to defraud are crimes under Chapter 832 of the state's statutes. The law lays out a wide variety of details, punishments and restitution options with regard to the passing of dishonored checks, depending on the payee, circumstances and amount of the check in question.
Stopping payment on a check with intent to defraud is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for amounts of $150 or more. For amounts less than that, it is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Separate laws govern the purchase of agricultural produce, where stopping payment on amounts of $150 or more are a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Various fines may apply to the commission of misdemeanors and felonies.
Knowingly passing a check with insufficient funds in the writer's account is a first-degree misdemeanor for amounts less than $150 and a third-degree felony for amounts greater than that. If the payee is the Department of Revenue in the collection of taxes, amounts less than $150 are considered second-degree misdemeanors. The party writing the check has 15 days after learning of its rejection by mail to make full payment, plus pay bank fees and an appropriate service charge as defined in Florida statutes to avoid prosecution. Certain attorney's and other fees may be applicable to collection as well.
It is not a crime under Florida law to issue a check if the payee is aware that the account on which the check draws does not have the needed funds. Previous receipt of a worthless check is not an indication of knowledge, nor is payment of a dishonored check a defense.
Payees may require the display of a credit card by someone wishing to cash a check, but they may not record the number of the card nor its expiration date as precondition of the transaction unless the payee has a preexisting arrangement with the card issuer. Doing so could result in a $250 fine for a first offense.
Some who are guilty of passing bad checks in Florida can be put through a diversion program that allows them to escape prosecution if they meet certain requirements. Offenders must complete an educational program and make restitution on the dishonored check and any associated fees.
Failure to appear in court on a charge of check fraud can result in the suspension of a Florida resident's driver's license.
David Baugher's work has appeared in "Missouri Lawyers Weekly" and the "St. Louis Beacon." A University of Missouri communications graduate, he has written since 1997 and has previously held positions as executive editor of the "St. Louis Jewish Light" newspaper and managing editor of "TED," a national trade magazine serving the electrical distribution industry.