In Kentucky, a misdemeanor offense for writing a bad check has a one-year statute of limitations, meaning the state has one year to indict a defendant for a misdemeanor. If the defendant is in custody, a grand jury has 60 days from the date of the defendant’s preliminary hearing to indict them. A felony offense for writing a bad check has no statute of limitations for charging a defendant.
County Attorney’s Office Aids Victims
A person who receives a bad check should contact their county attorney’s office. This office helps a victim collect payment for bad checks. A county attorney’s office will assist a victim by determining whether a check qualifies for prosecution.
If it does, the office sends a letter to the check writer informing them that if the face value of the check and reasonable check return fees are not paid within 10 days, the office will prosecute. The office further directs the check writer to make payment to its office rather than directly to the individual or business owed the money. The office then sends payment to the victim.
If the county attorney’s office has not received payment within two weeks after the 10-day period has expired, the victim must request the county attorney’s office to go further. The victim is required to call the county attorney’s office and request that a criminal warrant be issued. They must go to the county attorney’s office and sign the warrant within two weeks.
Setting a Court Hearing Date
The next step is for the warrant to be served by a law enforcement officer, after which the court will set a pretrial date. The office will try to collect the face value of the check and fees without the victim’s presence in court.
If there is a trial, the victim’s testimony may be required. The county attorney’s office will send a subpoena for their appearance as a witness for the state. If the victim does not come to court, the court can issue a bench warrant for their arrest.
If the county attorney’s office is able to collect payment from the 10-day letter or as restitution on a charge of theft by deception, the office will send the victim payment once it has cleared the office’s accounts.
Bad Check Complaint Form
A victim of bad checks must complete a Bad Check Complaint Form and submit it to the county attorney’s office with an original bank-stamped returned check. The victim must provide their name and address and the name, address, Social Security number and driver’s license number of the check writer.
If the check is written on a corporate, business or Doing Business As (DBA) bank account, the victim should attach the business’ information from the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website. In addition, the victim should share whether:
- They have made previous complaints about the check writer, perhaps for insufficient funds.
- The bad checks were submitted for payment on goods or services.
- The checks were received via mail.
Information Needed in the Complaint
The victim should also provide:
- Copy of the check writer’s identification card.
- Number of the bad check.
- Date of the bad check.
- Amount of the bad check.
- Reason for its return.
The victim should provide this information for each bad check received. If there is missing, incorrect or illegible information, this can delay or halt the process of payment recovery. The victim can email, fax, mail or take the documents in person to their local county attorney’s office.
Bad checks must have a bank stamp showing presentation to the bank within 30 days of the issue date on the checks. The statute of limitations for prosecution is one year for checks under $1,000. Checks for over $1,000 are felonies and do not have a statute of limitations. Ideally, the prosecution of check writers should begin as soon as possible after the check was issued.
Theft by Deception
Kentucky law provides that using a bad check to deprive an individual or business of payment is theft by deception. In order to be found guilty of this criminal offense, the check writer must have the intent to deprive the person of payment. A person deceives when they intentionally:
- Create or reinforce a false impression.
- Prevent another person from acquiring information that would affect judgment of a transaction.
- Fail to correct a false impression they previously created or reinforced, or which they know to be influencing a person to whom they stand in a fiduciary or confidential relationship.
- Fail to disclose a known lien, adverse claim or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of property which is transferred or encumbered in consideration for the property obtained.
- Issue or pass a check or similar sight order for the payment of money, knowing it will not be honored by the drawee.
Criminal Penalties for Theft by Deception
Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) Section 514.040 provides that theft by deception is a Class B misdemeanor. The penalty for a Class B misdemeanor is up to 90 days' incarceration and a fine up to $250. The exception is if the value of the amount of the check is at least $500, but less than $1,000, in which case the offense is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty for a Class A misdemeanor is up to one year of incarceration and a fine up to $500.
If the value of the check is at least $1,000, but less than $10,000, the offense is a Class D felony. The penalty for a Class D felony is between one and five years' incarceration and a fine between $1,000 and $10,000, or double the defendant’s gain from the commission of the offense, whichever is greater.
If the value of a bad check is $10,000 or more, the offense is a Class C felony. The penalty for a Class C felony is between five and 10 years' incarceration and a fine between $1,000 and $10,000, or double the defendant’s gain from the commission of the offense, whichever is greater.
Penalties for Multiple Convictions
If a person has three or more convictions for theft by deception in the past five years, the state will charge the offense as a Class D felony. If the value of the check is $10,000 or more, the state will charge the offense as a Class C felony. The five-year period is measured from the date on which the offense occurred.
If a person commits two or more separate offenses of theft by deception within 90 days, the offenses may be combined and treated as a single offense. The state may aggregate the value of property in each offense for the purpose of determining the appropriate charge.
- LouisvilleKy.gov: Bad Check Recovery/Prosecution
- Kentucky Revised Statutes: Section 514.040 Theft by Deception
- Kentucky Revised Statutes: Section 500.050 Time Limitations
- LouisvilleKy.gov: Bad Check Complaint Form
- Kentucky Secretary of State: Business Entity Search
- Kentucky Revised Statutes: Section 532.090 Sentence of Imprisonment for Misdemeanor
- Kentucky Revised Statutes: Section 534.040 Fines for Misdemeanors and Violations
- Kentucky Revised Statues: Section 532.060 Sentence of Imprisonment for Felony
- Kentucky Revised Statutes: Section 534.030 Fines for Felonies
- Westlaw: RCr 5.22 Procedure Upon Failure to Indict
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.