Fraud, in its many different forms involves using deception, lies, dishonesty, and falsehoods in an attempt to engage in an action that will benefit you even if it causes damage to another party. Whether an act of check fraud is regarded as a felony or a misdemeanor will depend on the specific circumstances involved, but fraud can also sometimes be classed as a civil wrong, which means that victims may choose to bring a law suit against someone that harmed them in an attempt to earn monetary damages.
Check fraud is a crime that takes place when a person chooses to intentionally pass a check with the understanding that the check is fake or counterfeit. Check fraud may also occur when a person passes a check knowing that the check will not be honored, or that the action itself will lead to gaining goods and services without actually having to pay for them. In some circumstances, check fraud may be charged as a crime of theft, because it results in the loss of property for someone else. What's more, it can be charged as both a state and federal crime.
In Massachusetts, check fraud is covered by Section 37 of Chapter 266of the Massachusetts General Laws. As indicated, this type of offense is regarded as larceny.
Examples of Check Fraud
Writing a bad check with the intent to engage in an act for fraudulent purposes can be classed as a significant offense, that is accompanied by a number of severe penalties if the person charged is found guilty. Check fraud specifically might involve someone deliberately signing another person's name on a check, forging an endorsement or signature on a check, altering the writing that exists on a check, or purposefully writing bad checks for merchants.
It is important to note that in a court situation, the check fraud or forgery that is alleged to have taken place must be proven as having taken place with some intention to defraud another institution or person. In order for a prosecution to be successfully pursued, however, there is no requirement that there must be a proven injury done to an innocent party. Practically every state across America has passed laws declaring forgery to be punishable and illegal, and most cases of check fraud will include an act of forgery to some extent.
In America, the fact that check fraud is regarded very seriously means it can lead to severe penalties that include fines of up to one million dollars, and prison sentences that exceed thirty years. In some cases, there may be an occasion wherein a penalty includes both punitive actions. In addition, many first-time offenders who held no criminal background before an accusation of check fraud will still receive very harsh sentences. While passing around a few bad checks may only qualify as a misdemeanor, if the perpetrator passes around numerous large checks in a short period of time, the felony degree may increase.
Check Fraud Punishment
In Massachusetts, the penalty for check fraud, which is considered in the state to be larceny, is jail time of not more than 1 year for checks with the total amount of not more than $250. If the value of the checks exceed $250, jail time can be as long as 5 years.
Check Fraud Defenses
Just as with many different crimes, it's worth noting that there are defenses that may be possible to reduce a sentence or have a sentence completely dismissed when a person faces a conviction of check fraud. These defenses will vary in applicability to your case, but they may include:
- If the bad check was postdated with a date after the date at which it was presented, then it may not be deemed as a fraudulent check. Instead, the would-be fraud extends a line of credit and is in a bad debt situation.
- If the action of fraud is linked to another person, such as when a check is written out by someone else on the behalf of the individual in question with the intent to damage that person's reputation, or in a case of personal identity theft, then the individual in question may not be guilty of check fraud.
- A defense may be that the issuer did not intend to write a bad check, or that he or she was not aware that the check would be bad when he or she was writing it. In other words, if a person writes a check without the knowledge that he or she doesn't actually have enough money in the account for the payment to go through, then it is not considered to be fraud.
- Finally, if a person can be proven to be insane or intoxicated during the time when the check was written, it is possible for the court to dismiss the accusations of check fraud.
What to Do If You Have Been Charged
If you find that you are charged with an instance of check fraud, it is important to ensure that you speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you better understand the options that may be available to you in terms of potential defenses. Keep in mind that if you speak to investigators without accessing legal advice before hand, you could accidentally give those investigators the evidence that they need to charge you with further crimes, or ask for a higher sentence. In other words, make sure that you speak to a lawyer before speaking to anyone else.