One of the common ways people commit fraud or obtain goods illegally is through writing bad checks. This is known as check fraud, and it is surprisingly prevalent. However, there may be cases in which check fraud is purely accidental: if a person has not checked his or her bank statement recently and writes a check for more than is in the account, that person has unwittingly committed check fraud. In these cases, the bank will generally cover the cost and contact the account holder, asking for the money due and informing him or her of a fine on the account. If the payment is made, there will be no further problems.
In Arizona, a person must be aware he or she is writing a bad check for fraud to be committed; criminal check fraud must be intentional, with the perpetrator knowingly writing a check with nonexistent funds. This and other check fraud regulations were decided by several Arizona Revised Statutes, 13-1807 through 13-1811.
The Revised Statutes
According to current Arizona Law, check fraud is only a criminal offense if the defendant was aware of their fraud. Thus, there are a number of defenses protecting accidental perpetrators from prosecution. If the person being paid was notified by the defendant there were not yet sufficient funds in the account before the check was cashed, criminal check fraud has not been committed.
Because the defendant demonstrated awareness of the insufficient funds and made it known to the recipient of the check, it is clear the defendant was not attempting to fraud the recipient of funds. Similarly, if the check was written when sufficient funds did exist or if the insufficiency of funds was due to a bank error or unexpected bank action, the defendant is not guilty of criminal check fraud.
These statutes also exist to help those who have been defrauded, however. There are several ways listed in statute 13-1808 to determine that the defendant knowingly attempted to defraud another person. For example, if the check was written against a closed account, the writer of that check can be assumed to have knowledge that the check was bad. Similarly, if payment was refused by the defendant’s bank at any time within one month of issuing the check, and if the defendant did not pay the amount within a set time period, knowledge of the insufficiency of funds is assumed.
If a defendant is determined to have knowingly committed check fraud, his or her victims may claim up to two times the amount of the original check in restitution. Furthermore, the defendant will also have to pay court and attorney fees, the amount determined on a sliding scale based on the amount of the bad check (13-1809). Each county in Arizona must maintain a bad check fund in its treasury, wherein the county attorney’s fee and other moneys resulting from the case are placed.
What to Do
If you knowingly write a bad check, you are guilty of check fraud. However, the severity of the punishments vary from case to case, and a good criminal defense attorney can help you get the best outcome possible. For more information, or to get in touch with a Phoenix check fraud attorney to prepare for your check fraud trial, contact the Law Offices of Scott David Stewart today.