Kentucky Bad Check Law

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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.


About the Author

Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.