Anyone can fall on hard times—we’ve all been there. Sometimes it’s hard to make ends meet, and harder still to know what to do if the money to pay bills simply isn’t there.
If you write a check while you know that you don’t have the money to cover it, Wisconsin law considers you a criminal.
That said, check writing is not a black-and-white issue in the court.
Bouncing a Check
Bouncing a check refers to writing a check on an account that does not have sufficient funds to pay the amount of the check. Bouncing a check will result in insufficient funds charges from your bank. You may also incur a bounced check fee and a late payment fee from the check’s recipient.
Maybe you wrote a check for an amount you hoped you could cover by the time the recipient cashed the check, and you didn’t make the deposit in time. This is known as floating a check. Perhaps your math was off—you checked your bank balance, forgot you had written another check that hadn’t yet cleared, and then bounced a second check.
Mistakes like these can be costly when you consider the bank’s insufficient funds fees, but they’re not criminal. (Who hasn’t forgotten to carry the one or move the decimal point?)
Changing an account number or making intentional errors to delay a check’s processing are forms of check fraud in the state of Wisconsin. Many people feel forced to do this in a desperate attempt to buy time.
Writing a check on a closed account is also an attempt to defraud the payee. Either of these actions may result in criminal charges in addition to any late payment, non-payment and bank fees.
Intent is Key
In order to prove a case of check fraud, a prosecutor has to prove your deliberate intent to defraud. While a bounced check can cost you financially, it’s not illegal to make an error in balancing your checkbook.
If you’re charged with a crime over a bad check you’ve written, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for advice. We all make mistakes. If you wrote a bad check, your lawyer can help you assert your intent in court.