Are you aware that bouncing a check is a criminal offense under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266, Section 37? There are few among us who have not bounced a check at some time in our lives, but generally the matter is resolved when we deposit funds in our account to cover the check. However, there are times when someone writes a check on an account with insufficient funds but is unaware that it bounced until a warrant has been issued or that person finds that he cannot renew his driver’s license until the warrant is resolved.
A bounced check is also referred to as larceny by check. There are 4 elements to this offense:
- Defendant wrote, passed, or delivered a check not backed with sufficient funds
- Defendant received services, property or funds as a result of writing, passing or delivering the check
- When defendant wrote, passed or delivered the check, he/she was aware there were insufficient funds in the bank account to cover the check
- The defendant possessed the intent to defraud the bank or the person who received the bad check
One aspect of this offense is that there is a rebuttable presumption that you had knowledge of insufficient funds and that you intended to defraud the bank or check recipient by the mere fact that the check bounced. However, if you deposited sufficient funds to cover the check within 2-days of receiving a notice of insufficient funds from your bank, then that presumption no longer applies. The notice from the bank can be written or oral.
Penalties for Larceny by Check
The penalties for committing this crime depends on the value of the services, property or funds obtained by the fraudulent act:
- If the value of the property or services is more than $250, it is a felony. You face up to 5-years in state prison or up to 2.5 years in state prison and a fine up to $25,000
- If the property is a firearm, the same penalty applies
- If the value of the property or services is $250 or less, it is a misdemeanor where you face up to one year in jail or house of correction, or a fine of up to $300
There are enhanced penalties if the person defrauded is at least 60-years of age or is disabled. If the property or services at issue is more than $250, you now face up to 10-years in state prison. The alternative is up to 2.5 years in state prison and a fine up to $50,000.
If the property is $250 or less, you face an enhancement of 2.5 years in a house of correction and/or a fine up to $1,000.
Defendants also face a civil suit for the value of the funds, services or property taken along with associated damages.
Your intent to defraud must be negated if you are to prevail if charged with larceny by check. This can be difficult if you had received notice of insufficient funds but took no steps to either return the property or funds taken or to deposit funds in your account to cover the check.
In some cases, you may have issued the check but received no notice from the bank because you had moved or were out of the country. It is also possible that the check recipient, if a business, is no longer in existence.
Another scenario is that someone wrote you a bad check for services rendered or for the purchase of an item and you attempted to cash it at your bank. If you had no reason to believe the check was fraudulent, then there is no intent to defraud the bank.
Retain Defense Lawyer Paul Moraski
Paul Moraski is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has handled larceny by check matters and has resolved these cases in favor of his clients. Often, the check recipient merely wants to be made whole by receiving the face amount of the check or a return of the property that was purchased. Other possible dispositions are restitution and probation for a year after which all charges are dismisses.
If you have an outstanding warrant or are being charged with larceny by check, call Boston criminal defense lawyer Paul Moraski at (978) 397-0011 for a free consultation about your case.