SUMMARY OF STATE BAD CHECK LAWS

January, 2007

Copyright, 2007

Commercial Collection Agency Association

Commercial Law League of America

This publication contains a Table of Bad Check Laws that summarize various state laws concerning the issuance of bad checks.  In addition, the Table provides information on service charges and civil penalties that the holder of a bad check or the courts may impose on the check's issuer.  Legal proceedings may be necessary to collect service charges, and are necessary to collect civil penalties.

The Summary is intended only as a general guide and in the main addresses' checks presented in payment of business or commercial transactions.  When a check is taken in connection with a consumer transaction, it is generally a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to threaten criminal action without the intent or ability to do so.  The Commercial Law League of America (CLLA) or the Commercial Collection Agency Association of the CLLA does not make any representation as to the accuracy of the contents of this publication.  Any person with a bad check problem should consult legal counsel for full details on the law of a particular state.

While there are differences among the states as to how bad checks are viewed (whether a misdemeanor or a felony) and the remedies available to holders of the bad check against the drawer, there are several general factors that run through the majority of state laws:

1.     In all states the maker of a check, who tenders a check knowing there is insufficient funds or credit behind the check, may be guilty of a crime and may be subject to civil penalties.

2.     In the majority of states the crime is treated as a misdemeanor.  In states that make a distinction regarding a felony or misdemeanor, the amount of the check usually determines if the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony.  In several states the law provides for fines and or imprisonment, but does not specify if the crime is misdemeanor or felony.

3.     In some states there is a criminal offense only when the bad check is given in exchange for property or for a present consideration.  In other states it is a criminal offense to issue a bad check with intent to defraud or with knowledge of insufficient funds.

4.     The intent to defraud and knowledge of insufficient funds is required to be present by most states' bad check laws.  The intent to defraud is sufficient.  It is not necessary for the payee to have actually been defrauded.

5.     In most states statutory provisions provide that it is prima facie evidence of insufficient funds (or of intent to defraud) if: (a) the check was not paid by the drawee (bank) on presentation for payment and (b) the drawer did not pay the check within a specified number of days after written notice to the drawer of dishonor of the check.  The prescribed numbers of days for the various states are:

Alabama 10 Georgia 10 Maryland 30
Alaska 15 Hawaii 10 Massachusetts 2
Arizona   12 Idaho 15 Michigan 30
Arkansas 10 Illinois 30 Minnesota 5
California 30 Indiana 30 Mississippi 15
Colorado 15 Iowa 30 Missouri 10
Connecticut 30 Kansas 14 Montana 5
Delaware 10 Kentucky 10 Nebraska 10
D. C. 5 Louisiana 15 Nevada 5
Florida 30 Maine 10 New Hampshire 14
New Jersey 35 Oregon 10 Utah 15
New Mexico 10 Pennsylvania 10 Vermont      10
New York 30 Rhode Island 15 Virginia 30
No. Carolina 30 So. Carolina 10 Washington 15
No. Dakota 10 So. Dakota 30 West Virginia 30
Ohio 10 Tennessee 10 Wisconsin 5
Oklahoma 5 Texas 10 Wyoming 5

6.     In many states the criminal provisions regarding bad checks do not apply to post-dated checks.  Because post-dated checks are a promise to pay in the future, they are not technically viewed as checks.  It has generally been held that post-dated checks are not within the scope of most states' bad check laws.

7.     It is generally held that the giving of a bad check in payment of a preexisting debt does not fall within the purview of most states' bad check laws.  Since the debt is preexisting the maker of the check did not deprive the payee of any right; procure anything of value from the payee or wrongfully appropriate anything belonging to the payee.

On paper, the legal consequences for the maker of a bad check are usually quite severe, however, as a practical matter the holder of a bad check may find it difficult to put into effect available remedies.

In most localities it is necessary to file a complaint with the appropriate criminal justice officer such as a sheriff or district attorney to initiate criminal legal action.  In the main most of these criminal justice officers are just too busy with other more serious crimes against the community.  Therefore, the filing of a bad check criminal action will usually not be promptly acted upon, except in cases involving significant amounts of money.

However, as a credit grantor you can effectively deal with the majority of routine bad check situations encountered by putting into practice the following procedures:

     Instruct your bank to re deposit any checks returned for insufficient or uncollected funds.  This procedure will effectively address any clerical errors the check's maker may have made regarding their bank account balance.

     On checks still unpaid after re depositing or returned because payment was stopped, you should write to the maker advising them of the non-payment, provide details of the check and request in addition to the amount of the check any appropriate service charges.

        It is suggested that the letter be sent certified mail with a return receipt requested.  However, on small balance bad checks the letter may be sent regular mail.

     If the maker of a bad check does not respond to your notice and fails to make the check good you should contact a member of the Commercial Collection Agency Association of the CLLA to discuss the situation with them.  They will be able to offer you assistance with the collection of the bad check and put you in touch with legal counsel if you desire to discuss legal remedies that may be available to you.

Commercial Collection Agency Association

Commercial Law League of America

TABLE OF BAD CHECK LAWS

STATES

FELONY

MISDEMEANOR

SERVICE FEES

CIVIL PENALTIES

Alabama

--

All Amounts

The greater, either $30. or actual charge by bank for returned check

Greater of $10. or actual bank charges.  May recover damages, including attorney’s fees, as determined by jury or court.

Alaska

>$500.

<$500.

$30.

$100., or triple the amount of the check, whichever is greater, except maximum is $1,000.

Arizona

--

All Amounts

$25.

Twice the amount of the check or $50., whichever is greater, plus costs and reasonable attorney's fees as awarded by the court.

Arkansas

>$200.

<$200.

$25.

Twice the amount of the check, but in no case less than $50., a collection fee, interest, court costs and reasonable attorney's fee.

California

All Amounts

(1)

$25. for first check, $35. for each subsequent one

Liable for the amount of the check and damages equal to three times that amount, but not less than $100., nor more than $1,500.

Colorado

>$500.

<$500.

$30., or 20% of check amount

Three times the amount of the check but not less than $100. plus costs of collection.


STATES

FELONY

MISDEMEANOR

SERVICE FEES

CIVIL PENALTIES

Connecticut

>$1,000.

<$1,000.

$30.

For an NSF check: determined by the court but in no event shall the amount be greater than the amount of the check or $400., whichever is less.  For a check drawn on a non-existent account: determined by the court but in no event shall the amount be greater than the amount of the check or $750.

Delaware

>$1,000.

<$1,000.

$25.

$100., or three times the amount of the check not to exceed $500.

District of Columbia

>$100.

<$100

$25.

Amount of the check.

Florida

>$50.

<$50.

Fees start at $25. if face amount does not exceed $50.

Three times the amount of the check, but in no case less than $50., together with the amount of the check, a service charge, court costs, reasonable attorney fees and bank charges.

Georgia

>$500.

<$500.

$30., or 5% of check face value, whichever is greater.

Double the amount of the check not to exceed $500. plus any court cost incurred.

Hawaii

--

All Amounts

$30.

$100., or triple the amount of the check whichever is greater, not to exceed $500.

Idaho

--

All Amounts

$20.

$100., or triple the amount of the check, whichever is greater, not to exceed $500.


STATES

FELONY

MISDEMEANOR

SERVICE FEES

CIVIL PENALTIES

Illinois

(2)

All Amounts

$25. or all costs and expenses, including reasonable attorney's fees necessary to collect the check.

$100., or triple the amount of the check whichever is greater, not to exceed $1,500, plus attorney's fees and court costs.

Indiana

>$2,500. if property acquired was a motor vehicle.

All other amounts

$20., or 5%, whichever is greater not to exceed $250.

Treble the face amount of the check, not to exceed $500.

Iowa

>$1,000.

<$1,000.

$30.

Treble the face amount of the check, not to exceed $500.

Kansas

>$500.

<$500.

$30.

$100., or three times the amount of the check, but not to exceed the amount of the check by more than $500.; plus court and reasonable attorneys’ fees

Kentucky

>$300.

<$300.

$25.

None

Louisiana

>$100.

<$100.

$25., or 5% of check amount whichever is greater.

Minimum of $100., or twice the amount of the check plus attorney's fees and court costs.

Maine

All Amounts

--

$25.

Amount of check, plus court costs, processing charges and interest. Court may award reasonable attorney’s fees and assess a civil penalty of $50.

Maryland

>$500.

<$500.

$35.

Amount of the check plus up to double the amount of the check, but not more than $1,000.


STATES

FELONY

MISDEMEANOR

SERVICE FEES

CIVIL PENALTIES

Massachusetts

>$100.

<$100.

$25.

Amount of check plus damages determined by the court, but in no event less than $100.or more than $500.

Michigan

>50.

<$50.

$25.

May be liable for double damages in the amount of not less than $50. but not more than $500., plus court costs up to $250.

Minnesota

--

All Amounts

$30., or actual costs not to exceed $30.

Up to $100. or the value of the check, whichever is greater, interest at the rate payable on judgments and reasonable attorney's fees.

Mississippi

>$100.

<$100.

$40.

Amount of check plus additional charges depending on the amount of check beginning at $30. and a maximum of 25% of the check if check is over $200.

Missouri

>$500.

<$500.

$25.

Amount of the check plus attorney fees and $100 or up to treble the amount of the check, whichever is greater.

Montana

>$300.

<$300.

$30.

Must be an amount equal to the service charge plus the greater of $100. or three times the amount of the check, not to exceed the amount of the check by more than $500.

Nebraska

>$500.

<$500.

$30.

$10. plus any reasonable handling fee imposed by the bank.

Nevada

>$250.

<$250.

$25.

Three times the amount of the check, but not less than $100. nor more than $500.


STATES

FELONY

MISDEMEANOR

SERVICE FEES

CIVIL PENALTIES

New Hampshire

>$1,000.

<$1,000.

$30.

Court, service and collection costs.  Failure to pay within allotted time may result in a $10. per day fee up to $500 until paid.

New Jersey

>$200.

<$200.

$20.

Liable for attorneys’ fees, court fees, mailing fees for notice and damages equal to $100., or triple the amount of check, whichever is greater, not to exceed to $500. more than the amount of the check.

New Mexico

>$25.

<$25.

$20.

$100., or triple the check amount, whichever is greater, not to exceed $500.

New York

--

All Amounts

$20.

If reason for bad check is no existing bank account, damages can be twice the face amount of the check or $750., whichever is less.  If reason is NSF, damages can be twice amount of the check or $400., whichever is less.

North Carolina

>$2,000.

<$2,000.

$25.

Treble the amount of the check, with a minimum of $100. and maximum of $500., in addition to amount of check, and processing and bank fees.

North Dakota

>$500.

>$50.

$25.

The lesser of $200., or three times the amount of the check.

Ohio

>$500.

<$500.

$30. or 10%, whichever is greater.

$200., or three times the amount of the check, all bank fees, court costs and attorneys’ fees

Oklahoma

>$500.

<$500.

$30.

An amount not to exceed $5,000.


STATES

FELONY

MISDEMEANOR

SERVICE FEES

CIVIL PENALITES

Oregon

>$75.

<$75.

$25.

$100., or triple the amount of the check, whichever is greater but not to exceed $500., and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Pennsylvania

>$75,000.

<$75,000.

$25.

$100., or triple the amount of the check but not to exceed $500. the value of the check, whichever is greater.

Rhode Island

>$100.

<$1,000.

$25.

Amount of check, collection fee and an amount equal to three times the amount of the check, but in no case less than $200. but no more than $1,000.

South Carolina

>$5,000.

 <$5,000.

$30.

The lesser of  $500. or treble the amount of the check.  May also be entitled to court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

South Dakota

>$500.

<$500.

$30.

All reasonable costs and expenses of collection.

Tennessee

>$500.

<$500.

$20.

If fraudulent intent, treble the face amount of the check, not to exceed $500., otherwise, 10% interest per annum, service charges, court costs and attorney's fees.

Texas

>$1,500.

<$1,500.

$25.

None.

Utah

>$1,000.

<$1,000.

$20.

Interest; all costs of collection, including court costs, reasonable attorneys’ fees equal to the greater of $100. or three times the check amount, not to exceed the check amount plus $500.


STATES

FELONY

MISDEMEANOR

SERVICE FEES

CIVIL PENALITES

Vermont

--

All Amounts

$25.

Court cost, costs of service, the amount of the check, bank fees, interest, attorney's fees and damages in the amount of $50.

Virginia

>$200.

<$200.

$35.

Three times the amount of the check, up to a maximum amount of $250., in addition to the amount of the check, legal interest from the date of check, service fee and  processing fee and attorney’s fees if awarded by the court.

Washington

--

All Amounts

$30.

Lesser of three times the amount of the check and reasonable attorneys’ fees or $300.

West Virginia

>$500.

<$500.

$15.

$500. or the amount of the check whichever is less, plus reasonable costs incurred in filing the action.

Wisconsin

>$2,500.

<$2,500.

$30.

Three times the amount of the check, and all actual costs of legal action, including attorneys’ fees, not to exceed $500.

Wyoming

>$1,000.

<$1,000.

$30.

Three times the amount of the check, but in no case less than $100., collection fees and court costs. Attorney fees may also be awarded.

 

(1) An offense may be deemed a misdemeanor at the discretion of the court.

(2) The offense is considered a felony, if it represents subsequent offenses.

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