Checks, money orders, and other transfers of electronic funds are important ways to move money around and pay for goods and services. Most checks are issued by banks and carry some level of reputation that gives people the confidence to accept a check as payment and know they can get money out of it. However, if people intentionally pay with checks they know will bounce, it can cause serious problems.
Intentionally paying with a bad check is a serious offense and can lead to severe criminal penalties and high fines. If you or a loved one was charged with a bad check offense in Atlantic City, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our number is (609) 616-4956, and we offer free legal consultations on new cases.
When Issuing a Bad Check Becomes a Crime in NJ
Mistakes happen, especially when it comes to managing finances. If you do not have enough money in your checking account or accidentally write too many checks too close together, you may find your checks bouncing. Unfortunately for retailers or service providers who accepted your check as payment, a bounced check means they did not get paid. If you continue to keep the goods or accept the benefit of the services that you “paid” for with a bad check, those goods or services are effectively stolen.
If you rectify the error quickly, move additional cash to your checking account or pay again with cash, the problem may be corrected; nothing was stolen, and no one was taken advantage of. This kind of accident rarely results in criminal charges, but misunderstandings happen, and charges could result out of those misunderstandings. Fortunately, these charges should not stand because the definition of bad checks crimes in NJ is very specific.
To be arrested and convicted of a crime for issuing a bad check or funds transfer under N.J.S.A. § 2C:21-5, the government must prove that you knew your check was going to be bad when you wrote it. If the government can prove you had actual knowledge that your account did not have the money to clear the check, that can lead to a conviction. However, it is unlikely that prosecutors can get that kind of information, and the law instead assumes that you had knowledge the check would be bad if either of these conditions is met:
- You did not have an account with the bank you issued the check from.
- The bank refused the check and you did not fix the issue within 10
Writing a check that you can’t support because you do not have an account or the account was recently closed is difficult to do without knowledge, and the court can assume that you violated this offense if you had no account. Additionally, the court can assume that you had knowledge that the check was bad if you waited more than 10 days to correct the payment error or return the goods.
Penalties for Writing a Bad Check in New Jersey
Getting goods or services by writing a bad check is functionally equivalent to theft. Since no one was actually paid for the goods or services, the government sees a bad check crime as the same as theft and uses very similar penalties which classify the crime differently based on the amount of the bad check, money order, or wire transfer:
- Writing a bad check for under $200 is a disorderly persons This carries up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
- Writing a bad check for $200 or more, but under $1,000, is a fourth degree This carries up to 18 months in jail and fines up to $10,000.
- Writing a bad check for $1,000 or more, but under $75,000, is a third degree This carries 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
- Writing a bad check for $75,000 or more is a second degree This carries 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
In many cases in New Jersey, judges are unwilling to assign jail time for first offenders or those facing low-level offenses. As long as the crime is a disorderly persons offense, a fourth degree crime, or a third degree crime, you may be able to avoid jail time. Instead, you will likely face penalties including probation and supervision. However, if you have prior convictions, you may nonetheless face jail time.
In some cases, you may be able to apply to the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI). This program allows first-time offenders charged with serious crimes to participate in rehabilitative programs rather than face criminal penalties. Similar opportunities may be available to have low-level disorderly persons offenses dropped after crime prevention classes, community services, and other efforts to prevent reoffending.
Call Our Atlantic City Bad Checks Lawyers for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one was charged with writing a bad check in New Jersey, contact our Atlantic City bad checks lawyers today. The criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent defendants in bad check cases and fight to get charges dropped and dismissed and the penalties reduced. For help with your case and to schedule a free initial consultation, contact our law offices today at (805) 585-5056.