Overdrawing your bank account is rarely a criminal offense. It depends on your intentions and your state's check fraud laws. According to the National Check Fraud Center, all states can impose jail time for overdrawing your account, but the reasons for overdrawing an account must support criminal prosecution.
Reasons That Support Criminal Prosecution
Overdrawing a bank account jumps from a civil offense with civil penalties to a criminal offense with criminal penalties for two reasons only. According to the National Check Fraud Center, you could go to jail if convicted of writing a check on a closed bank account and for failing to make a bad check good within 10 days of receiving an overdraft notice.
State Laws Vary
While states that impose jail time usually send offenders to the county jail, some do send repeat offenders to the state penitentiary. Depending on the amount of the offense and the number of overdrafts involved, sentencing lengths range from six months to 10 years. For example, as of the time of publication in Montana, a bad-check conviction can lead to a six-month county jail sentence. However, if the overdraft amount exceeds $1,500, an offender can face imprisonment in the state penitentiary for up to 10 years.
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.