Bad checks laws vary from state to state and can lead to fines, criminal arrest and potential jail time. Most law enforcement agencies won't issue a warrant for a bad check unless several conditions have been met first. If an arrest warrant has been issued, you need to take immediate steps to cover the bad check and pay any necessary fees or fines.
If you write a check when you know you don't have enough funds to cover it or when the bank account has already been closed, you can be charged with a crime. The severity of the charges depends on where you are charged and the amount of the check. It isn't a crime to write a bad check accidentally, only to knowingly defraud the person you wrote the check to. For this reason, the district attorney generally wont pursue criminal action unless you fail to address the problem when given the opportunity or are a repeat offender. For example, the District Attorney's Office for Anderson County, Texas, doesn't issue a warrant for a bad check unless the person who wrote the check fails to cover it after two written notices and a warrant notice or tries to cover it with a second bad check.
It is the discretion of the merchant to pursue bad check enforcement and prosecution. Mistakes happen; the sooner you address it with the merchant, the less likely a warrant will be issued. However, banks and merchants will pursue action if they see a pattern of abuse or potential check kiting, a method of depositing a bad check to use immediately available funds.
If a check fraud warrant has been issued, you should assume that the district attorney has strong evidence to prosecute you and that you have already missed two or three opportunities to resolve the problem. Your only chance to stay out of trouble now is to get in touch with the district attorney without delay.
Avoiding Arrest for Check Fraud
Once an arrest warrant has been issued, law enforcement officers may come to your home or job to arrest you. However, even if they don't come looking for you, the arrest warrant remains valid. If you're pulled over for any reason and the police run a check through the Department of Motor Vehicles, the warrant will show and you will be arrested.
If you call the district attorney before being arrested, you may be able to cover the check and pay the fine and avoid going to trial. The district attorney's office will let you know what options you have when you call.
Read More: How to Check If an Arrest Warrant Has Been Issued
What to Do If You're Arrested
If you're arrested, you'll be required to post bail or stay in jail until your trial. The district attorney might offer you a plea arrangement, including a payment plan that allows you to cover the check and associated fines. If you aren't offered a plea bargain, you might be able to request a payment plan and a delay in your trial so you can offer restitution to the recipient of the bad check. If you make restitution, the court may give you a reduced sentence upon conviction.
If you set up a payment plan with the court, make all your payments on time as promised. If you don't, the court can impose additional penalties including potential prison sentencing even for first time check fraud.
If you receive a notice that a warrant has been issued for check fraud but you can't remember writing any bad checks, you may be the target of a scam. Don't respond to the suspect notice. Instead, call the district clerk of court to find out if there really is a warrant out for you. If no warrant exists, call the FBI Major Case Contact Center at 800-225-5324 to report the scam.
Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.