Someone who knowingly writes checks without sufficient funds or from a closed or fake account commits deposit account fraud under Section 16-9-20 of Georgia's criminal code. Penalties depend on the amount of the check and the offender's status. If a prosecutor doesn't file charges, victims still can pursue civil suits to recoup the loss.
Basic Legal Elements
To file a complaint under Section 16-9-20, a prosecutor must show the offender knew that the bank wouldn't honor the check because he lacked the funds to cover it, wrote it on a closed account, or didn't have an account with the institution. He also must prove the offender wrote the check for present consideration, or immediate payment of the goods and services that he fraudulently obtained.
Georgia law specifies three kinds of misdemeanors. Writing a bad check for $100 or less is punishable by a maximum $500 fine, one-year prison term, or both. Checks of $100 to $300 result in a $1,000 maximum fine, one-year prison term, or both. If the amount is $300 to $499, an offender is guilty of a high and aggravated misdemeanor. Penalties may include a fine of up to $5,000 and one-year prison term.
Bad checks of $500 or more are felonies, punishable by fines of $500 to $5,000 and a maximum three-year prison term under Section 16-9-20. Writing bad checks against banks in another state also is a felony. A conviction results in fines of $1,000 to $5,000, and a 1 to 5 year prison sentence. As in misdemeanor cases, a judge also may order restitution and payment of court costs.
Victims may seek additional damages of twice the original check's face value. The maximum amount remains $500, however. The process requires sending a demand letter by certified mail. The suspect is given 10 days to pay the amount owed and service charges of $30 or five percent, whichever is higher. If he doesn't respond, the victim can seek an arrest warrant or sue to collect the amount.
Bad Check Citations
Some jurisdictions, like Cherokee County, offer bad check citation programs to spare victims and offenders a lengthy court process. Only misdemeanor cases qualify. The offender must appear by the date specified on his citation to demand a trial or avoid prosecution by making the check good. If he doesn't appear, the court issues a warrant for his arrest.