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Los Angeles Check Fraud Lawyer

Are you facing a charge of check fraud in California? Depending upon the amount of money involved, you could be facing a felony or a misdemeanor. Writing a check that bounces is not terribly unusual, and while many people may do it, it is likely inadvertent. For example, you write a check for $1,000, mistakenly believing there is enough money in your checking account to cover it. Perhaps you made an arithmetic mistake, or you forgot that you had written a check several days earlier. Does that mean that you can s for it?

The good news is that passing a bad check is not always a criminal offense. The primary “bad check” statute in California, PC 476, says that if you utter a check “with intent to defraud,” you can be charged with forgery. As in other cases involving specific intent, it is an element of the offense, and must be proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the other hand, the bad news is that knowingly passing a bad check, i.e., forgery with intent to defraud – is not only a crime, but may, if the aggregate amount involved is $950 or higher, lead to a felony charge. Note that the $950 felony threshold can be a single check or a combination of checks totaling $950 or more. Finally, even if the amount is small, you can be charged with a felony if you have previously been convicted on a bad check charge.

Types of Check Fraud in California

While we may think of check fraud as a simple act of writing a check on an account aware there are insufficient funds in the account to cover it, there are numerous ways to commit the offense. They include:

  • Check Kiting. A person is in need of $1,000 but does not have sufficient funds in his accounts. That person writes a check for $1,000 drawn on account A, and immediately deposits it into account B. The next day, the person withdraws the entire amount of $1,000 from account B and puts it in his pocket. The following day, he manages to get $1,000 together and deposits it into account A before his check bounces. In one sense, it is a “temporary loan,” but inasmuch as it is unauthorized and fraudulent, it is a crime.
  • Check Forgery. This could involve a forged endorsement, use of a stolen blank check, a forged signature of the drawer, or other means.
  • Cashier’s Check Fraud. A cashier’s check is a bank’s check drawn on itself. The fraud occurs when someone is given a cashier’s check, and they are asked, for example, to send the goods supposedly being paid for by the cashier’s check. After you ship the goods, you learn that the cashier’s check was fraudulent.

In many of these situations, the issues of knowledge, intent, etc. are important, not only regarding criminal liability, but also to determine whether the “ultimate loser” in a successful fraudulent scheme should be the bank or the customer.

Defenses to Check Fraud Charges

Obviously, there are numerous ways in which a person can commit check fraud, and the methodology will be reflected in the charges. Similarly, the prosecution must, in order to obtain a conviction in any of these cases, prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Here are several potential defenses to a charge of check fraud:

  • Lack of Intent. One of the elements of check fraud is intent. Without it, there is no fraud. Furthermore, people do make honest errors, and should not be held criminally liable for every mistake they may have made.
  • Mistaken Identification. Whether through simple misidentification, identity theft, or otherwise, you may have been wrongfully identified as the person who, for example, presented a bad check for payment at the bank. As a result, you may not only be innocent of the charges, but you may also be the victim of the crime that you are accused of committing!
  • Lack of Knowledge. If, for example, you are charged with check kiting or check forgery, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you knew the account(s) did not have sufficient funds to cover the check(s). If the prosecutor cannot prove you acted with that knowledge, the defense should be successful.

These and other defenses may be available in your case.

Los Angeles Check Fraud Attorney

People write bad checks all the time. In most situations, it is the result of a mistake – arithmetic or memory. If you are accused of kiting checks, check forgery or related crimes, speak to an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer who can analyze your case and provide you with a blueprint of how to go about investigating and developing your defense. At CBS Law, we have the experience you want when you are facing a charge of check fraud or any financial crime. Contact us for a free consultation. Call CBS Law at (213) 800-8005


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