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New Jersey Bad Check Charges Lawyer

Experienced on Both Sides of the Courtroom    

Writing a bad check may seem like a minor indiscretion; however, it can carry significant consequences. According to New Jersey law, specifically N.J.S.A.2C:21-5, an individual who issues a check, electronic funds transfer, money order, or other document knowing it will not be honored by the financial institution on which it was drawn commits a theft offense.

I have prosecuted, defended, and successfully taken to trial many bad checks cases. While some of these charges were issued by sworn police officers, the majority of bad checks allegations are actually made by private citizens and store personnel. Surprisingly, New Jersey allows basically anyone to sign a criminal complaint against another as long as probable cause is found by a judge.

New Jersey Bad Check Penalties

New Jersey categorizes misdemeanors and felonies as disorderly persons offenses and indictable crimes, respectively. In terms of bad check charges, the potential penalties may encompass the following:

  • Disorderly Persons Offense:
    • Checks less than $200
      • Fine: up to $1,000
      • Sentence: up to six months in jail
    • Fourth Degree Crime:
      • Checks for at least $200, but less than $1,000
        • Fine: up to $10,000
        • Sentence: up to 18 months in prison
      • Third Degree Crime:
        • Checks for at least $1,000, but less than $75,000
          • Fine: up to $15,000
          • Sentence: up to five years in prison
        • Second Degree Crime:
          • Checks more than $75,000
            • Fine: up to $150,000
            • Sentence: up to 10 years in prison

New Jersey Bad Check Required Elements of Proof

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:21-5, a New Jersey prosecutor must establish two key elements in order to meet the burden of proof. The first is that the defendant actually wrote or issued the check. Second, the State must show that the defendant knew at the time the check was issued it would not be honored.

There are presumptions related to the defendant’s knowledge attached to the second element.

  • The first is that, at the time the check was written, the issuer of the check did not have an open account with the bank on which the funds would be drawn. As such, the court may reasonably presume the defendant “knew” the check would not clear.
  • The second presumption involves a series of events:
    • The recipient of the check tried to deposit or cash it within 46 days of the issuance date.
    • The bank refused to honor the check because of insufficient funds or a closed account.
    • The bank or recipient notified the issuer that the check was not honored. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:21-5, the notice of refusal is sent to the last known address; however, it may also be given to the issuer “orally or in writing in any reasonable manner by any person.”
    • The issuer failed to reimburse the funds within 10 days of receiving the refusal notice.
    • If the check was not made good within 10 days, the court may presume that the issuer knew the check would not be honored when it was originally written.

Potential Bad Check Defense Strategies

Although facing a charge of check fraud is a frightening situation, an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney may find a successful solution. A skilled attorney who knows how to conduct discovery may minimize the consequences or find grounds for dismissal. Some possible arguments include the following:

  • The check was illegible or incompletely filled out.
  • The check lacked all the required signatures.
  • Postdated checks are excluded from theft charges according the N.J.S.A.2C:21-5. The reason being is that a postdated check is written with the stipulation that there are insufficient funds or some other condition making it invalid. Both the issuer and the recipient possess knowledge of the conditions.
  • The bank did not honor a hold that was placed on the check.
  • The issuer did not receive a refusal notice, or the bank failed to send a notice.
  • The issuer exhibited lack of intent by miscalculating the balance or anticipating a deposit that did not occur.

New Jersey Diversion Programs for Issuing Bad Checks

First-time offenders may have the option of avoiding a criminal record and prosecution for issuing a bad check. The diversion programs carry strict eligibility requirements and typically require one year probation to complete.

  • Conditional Discharge Program applies to disorderly persons offenses, and upon satisfactory completion of the supervised terms, the charges are dismissed and not considered a conviction.
  • Pretrial Intervention may be an option for third and fourth degree crimes to work as a diversion to future criminal activity.
  • Intensive Supervision Program provides a parole alternative for nonviolent offenders to serve their sentence outside the traditional prison setting. It carries specific counseling, employment, and curfew requirements.
  • Conditional Dismissal Program may be an option for first-time offenders charged with disorderly persons offenses. After entering a guilty plea, the court determines the candidate’s suitability. Once the requirements are fulfilled, including paying restitution and court costs, the court may withhold judgment of conviction.
  • Veteran’s Diversion Program is available for service members charged with nonviolent disorderly persons offenses as well as third and fourth degree crimes. It’s intended to divert eligible military personnel into appropriate case management services that help them avoid a criminal record.

New Jersey Bad Check Expungement

According to N.J.S.A.2C:52-1 through N.J.S.A.2C:52-32, an individual who holds two prior disorderly persons convictions for bad checks may have them expunged with certain provisions. Likewise, one felony check writing conviction may be expunged.

A lawyer can provide the necessary information regarding the requirements of the process and the waiting periods for filing. Contact New Jersey expungement attorney Anthony Vecchio for a free consultation.

How an Experienced New Jersey Can Help with Bad Check Charges

While many people may view a check fraud charge as a minor offense, New Jersey takes it very seriously. A conviction carries significant consequences. In addition to the fines and jail time mentioned above, it may also affect current and future job and housing prospects.

Working with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who is skilled at navigating the court system is crucial to the successful outcome of a bad check charge.

Having worked as a prosecutor, Anthony J. Vecchio applies that experience to work for the best interests of his clients. Contact (800) 418-8578, or complete the online form to arrange a free no-obligation initial consultation at one of five convenient New Jersey locations.

Rating Methodology

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    “Mr. Vecchio was very thorough and efficient. His team was accommodating and the ultimate outcome was better than expected. Mr. Vecchio kept me up to date with every detail via emails and text messages. An all around good guy and family man.”
    “I have been working with Anthony on my husband’s out of state case for a few days now. He is punctual and doesn’t make you feel like you are asking too many questions in such a stressful time. He knows exactly what is happening before you even tell him. He is very professional and treats you like a human at the same time with the most respect.”
    "Anthony was instrumental in making the worst time in my life manageable. He's smart, intuitive and most of all he gave me peace of mind. I would recommend him to anyone looking for a sharp, progressive attorney who knows how to navigate the law."

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