Arrested for Writing Worthless Checks?
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The crime of obtaining property for a worthless check is common in Florida. Florida statutes define the crime of Obtaining Property for a Worthless Check as a situation in which someone issues a check to obtain property or a service from another individual when the person who wrote the check knows there are insufficient funds for the money to actually be withdrawn from the account.
One of the main focuses of the State Attorney's Office is ensuring that restitution is paid to the alleged victim as soon as possible. One of the best things you can do to help your case is hire an attorney and have the attorney pay the restitution through a trust account and work with the assigned prosecutor to get the charges dropped.
If a person who accepts a worthless check does wish to formally prosecute the person who wrote the check, they must take certain measures before the State Attorney's Office can file charges. These steps include giving notice to the person the alleged victim wishes to prosecute. This can be done via First Class Mail, Certified Mail, or something similar which would provide evidence that notice was attempted to the return address written on the check. Even if the letter returns undeliverable, this provides sufficient evidence that notice was attempted. There is also an Affidavit for Criminal Prosecution of Worthless Check Cases in each county in Florida. Further information regarding the requirements of the affidavit can be located on the State Attorney's website.
Defenses to Writing Worthless Checks Charges
While obtaining property for a worthless check is a serious matter, there are various defenses to this type of accusation some of which include:
Not Knowing the Check Would Bounce
- One common defense to the charge of obtaining property for a worthless check pertains to the knowledge requirement necessary for a conviction. Many people are not guilty of obtaining property for a worthless check because they unknowingly mismanaged their account or did not properly balance their checkbook. Often times, someone experiencing financial difficulty will write a check thinking the money is in their account then later find out that the funds were insufficient.
- A post-dated check is a defense to the criminal charge of obtaining property for a worthless check if the person accepting the check accepts a "post-dated check." This occurs because the fact that the check is post-dated should signal to the person receiving the check that there are not enough funds presently in the account to deposit the check and it cannot be deposited until the stated date.
The Depositor of the Check Knew or Should Have Known the Check was Worthless
- A defense to the charge of obtaining property for a worthless check also occurs when the person accepting the check was notified prior to receiving the check that there were insufficient funds in the account to cover the check. Additionally, if that person had reason to believe there were insufficient funds to cover the check at the time it was accepted, this is a defense to the criminal charge. An example of this would be if you asked the person to whom you're issuing the check to hold off or wait to deposit the check for a short period of time. If there was any reason for the person who accepted the check to believe that the check would not be honored, then you cannot be found guilty of obtaining property for a worthless check.
Stopping Payment with Intent to Defraud
- If the person who issued the check "stopped payment" on the check after the check was initially issued, then the offense cannot be prosecuted as obtaining property for a worthless check.
- Similar to a "stop payment" situation, a forged check cannot be prosecuted as an obtaining property for a worthless check case. However, in that circumstance, charges can be filed under Florida's forgery statute as a felony crime.
A bank can classify a dishonored check with various notations all of which can lead to a criminal conviction under Florida law. Some of these notations include: Insufficient Funds; Closed Account; Uncollected Funds; Account Not Found; Refer to Maker; and NSF or Non-Sufficient Funds.
Punishment for obtaining property for a worthless check can be harsh. When the amount of the check written is less than $150, this classifies a first degree misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in jail. If the check was written for over $150, the offense is then classified as a third degree felony which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
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If you or someone you love has been charged for a theft crime, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential to protecting your freedom and future. At Taracks & Associates, our Tampa criminal attorney is committed to fighting on behalf of our clients to try to have charged dropped or reduced. If you would like to discuss your case, our legal team is available to provide a free consultation.
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