Laws in the Commonwealth of Kentucky treat all bad checks, also known in Kentucky as cold checks, as a misdemeanor or felony “theft by deception” offense. As of publication date, there are no civil penalties, so a conviction could involve a jail or prison sentence. Statute 514.040 outlines the legal consequences and penalties for committing “theft by deception.”
Checks that Qualify as Cold
The intent of a check writer determines whether a returned check is a prosecutable offense. Checks that qualify as intentionally written to deceive are:
- Checks written on a closed or non-existent account
- Checks written against insufficient funds and not paid in full -- including any additional penalties or fees imposed by the recipient and the bank -- within 10 business days
- Checks that display incorrect bank information and therefore are returned as unable to locate
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Offense
The cutoff point between whether the County Attorney’s Office considers a cold check a Class A misdemeanor or prosecutes it as a Class D or Class C felony offense is $500. The circumstances of the case and any prior criminal history determine whether a judge will impose the maximum sentence or a lesser penalty.
- A check written for up to $499.99 is a misdemeanor offense. Conviction is punishable by a jail sentence ranging from 90 days to one year and a fine of up to $500.
- A check written for $500 to $9,999.99 or more is a Class D felony. In addition to a possible prison sentence of 1 to 5 years, the penalty fine ranges from $1,000 to $10,000
- A check written for $10,000 or more is a Class C felony. In addition to a possible prison sentence of 5 to 10 years, the penalty fine ranges from $1,000 to $10,000.