Under Indiana law, it is a crime to issue, offer or present a check or bank draft drawn on an account that you (1) know has insufficient funds to cover the amount of the check; (2) is a closed account; or (3) is a nonexistent or fictitious account. In Indiana, these offenses are collectively known as check deception. Penalties for check deception may include fines, jail or both.
If you present a check for an amount under $2,500, you will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. According to Indiana criminal statutes, a Class A misdemeanor carries carries a potential sentence of up to a year in county jail and a maximum fine of $5,000.
If the amount of the worthless check is $2,500 or more and the property received includes an automobile, the charge will be amended up to a Class D felony. Class D felonies carry a potential sentence of six months to three years in jail (or prison if the sentence is over a year) and fines up to $10,000. In some counties, the threshold for charging a felony is lower. For example, in Tippecanoe County, prosecutors have the authority to charge a felony for worthless checks of $500 or more.
Indiana law also allows victims to sue an offender for civil damages. Under the law, a victim can claim damages up to three times the amount of the check for a maximum of $500 per check, attorney fees and 18 percent annual interest.
Several Indiana counties, including Boone, Warren, Tippecanoe and Noble, offer certain first-time worthless-check offenders the opportunity to avoid prosecution and jail by participating in a bad check diversion program. Under the terms of these programs, an offender is allowed a set amount of time to pay a victim the full amount of the check (plus any fees set forth by the particular county) and take part in a worthless-check prevention class.
Indiana law allows the writer of a worthless check to ask that a charge of check deception be dismissed if, within 10 days of receiving notice that the check presented was not paid, the check writer pays the full amount of the check and fees as set out in the law. Similarly, a charge of check deception cannot be filed if the presenter of the worthless check did not know he had insufficient funds to cover the check or the person who accepted the check knew the presenter did not have sufficient funds to cover the check.
Marcello Viridis has been "working in writing" for the past six years. Since publishing his first article in 2004, he has written on a range topics from working and living overseas for the Wall Street Journal's Black Collegian website to legal essays for the Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties. Viridis has a B.A. from Pomona College and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School.