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Pittsburgh Bad Checks Lawyer

When someone gives you—the “payee”—a bad check, you go unpaid until the person who issued the check—the “payor”—issues a replacement check that is honored by the bank—the “drawee.” That’s a real burden on the payee, and, if the bad check was intentional, it’s a handy way for the payor to delay forking over the cash.

But rare is the person who has never had a check refused or returned by a bank for insufficient funds. Most of the times that people write bad checks, there is a far less sinister explanation for having too little money in the account to cover the check, such as:

  • Errors in keeping the record of the checking account, like failing to record a check that you wrote, or just making math mistakes
  • Delays in reconciling the bank statement to your own records
  • Errors by the bank itself
  • Forgery and fraud by someone you wrote a check to, who has altered the amount, which you can’t know until the next bank statement
  • A check that someone gave you for an amount that you counted on being in your account ends up being dishonored

As far as the criminal law is concerned, the main concern in separating the understandable but innocent errors from deliberate conduct designed to take advantage of the payee. In essence, did the person who wrote the check know it was bad when it was written? A corollary: was a prompt effort made to make payment once the bank’s refusal of the check became known? In this situation, a skilled Pittsburgh bad checks attorney can make a big difference.

Pennsylvania Bad Check Law

Intentionally writing bad checks in Pennsylvania is explicitly made an offense under a law that describes the elements and proof of the offense in considerable detail.

The bad check statute specifically creates two offenses, both based on the knowledge of the payor that the bank will not pay the check:

  • Issuing a check that he knows the bank will not honor
  • Issuing a check drawn on a bank located in the state, knowing that the bank will not honor it

The second offense is a crime even if every act involved occurred outside the state, as long as the bank is within the state.

Since knowledge is virtually impossible to prove in any objective way, the law presumes that the person who wrote a bad check knew that the bank would not pay it if:

  • The payor did not even have an account at the bank
  • The check was presented and dishonored within 30 days of issuance, the payor was notified of that and failed to make the check good within 10 days

Penalties for Bad Checks

Penalties for bad check offenses depend on the amount of the check and the payor’s prior offenses. In general:

  • Checks under $200 are summary offenses (up to 90 days jail time)/
  • Checks between $200 and $499.99 are third degree misdemeanors (up to 1 year).
  • Checks between $500 $999.99 are second degree misdemeanors (up to 2 years).
  • Checks between $1,000 and $74,999 are first degree misdemeanors (up to 5 years).
  • Checks for $75,000 and up are third degree felonies (up to 7 years).

A third or subsequent offense in a period of 5 years is a first degree misdemeanor (regardless of the class of the prior offenses), except for checks of $75,000 and up, which remain third degree felonies.

Costs

If convicted under the bad check law, you can also be ordered to pay various costs to the payee of the dishonored check, including the face value of the check, interest from the date the check was dishonored, and a service charge if the payee has posted on his premises such charges will be assessed for bad checks.

Get Legal Help From an Experienced Pittsburgh Bad Checks Lawyer

For what seems like such a simple subject, bad checks often present more complicated questions best left to an experienced attorney:

  • If a civil suit is also pending, how do you navigate between the two?
  • How does all of this work if the check was post-dated?
  • When did you know that the check was dishonored, which starts the 10-day clock running on making good the check?

A reputation for passing bad checks will not do much for your business opportunities–who wants to do business with someone who may pay them with a bad check?—and your ability to access credit for any reason will be harmed. You certainly don’t want to spend time in jail. If you are, or are about to be, facing bad check charges anywhere in the Pittsburgh area, call the law offices of Gary Gerson today. Let him put his 25-plus years of experience as a dedicated Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to work for you. The sooner you call, the sooner Gary can begin to work on your defense, and the less stress you will suffer dealing with the justice system, so make that call now.

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