What Happens if You Write a Worthless Check in Wisconsin?

By Attorney Carlos Gamino

If you’re like many people, you know you’re not supposed to write a bad check – but did you know it’s actually a crime to write a worthless check? In fact, it can be a misdemeanor or a felony, and a conviction either way could put you behind bars. Here’s what you need to know.

What Happens if You Write a Worthless Check in Wisconsin?

Maybe you’ve written a check and asked someone not to cash it for a week, or perhaps you’ve post-dated a check to pay a bill – or maybe you know someone who has. When checks were more prevalent as a payment method, this happened pretty often. Though many people now pay for everything from groceries to utilities with plastic, some people (and some businesses) still use checks because they’re simpler to track and manage.

But writing a check that you know doesn’t have any money behind it is a crime – and the severity of the punishment that comes with a conviction depends on the amount of the check and a few other factors.

Related: What is white collar crime?

What Does “Writing a Worthless Check” Mean?

Writing a worthless check means that at the time you issue the check, you do not intend for it to actually be paid. That may mean printing up a fake check with fake account numbers, writing a check on a closed account, or even writing a check with the intention of canceling it after you receive goods or services.

The key here is intent. You must intend not to “make good” on the check at the time you write it or use it to pay for something. (The law recognizes that checks bounce – it happens! Sometimes you forget to carry a one, your paycheck gets deposited into your account later than you anticipate, or you have to spend money on an emergency that depletes your stash of money in the bank.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Penalties for Writing a Worthless Check

The two separate penalties you could receive if you’re convicted of writing a worthless check are as follows:

  • If the check’s value is under $2,500, you’re facing a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty for that is up to 9 months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
  • If the check’s value is over $2,500, or if you issued more than one check valuing more than $2,500 within a 90-day period, it’s a Class I felony. The penalty for that is up to a year and six months in prison with up to two years of extended supervision, plus a fine of up to $10,000.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Charges Stemming From Writing a Worthless Check?

If you need to talk to a lawyer because you’re accused of writing a worthless check, we may be able to help you – and we can certainly discuss your situation during a free consultation. Call us at 414-383-6700 now to schedule a time for a free case review.

Attorney Carlos Gamino