Check fraud is anytime that you make, write, pass, possess or attempt to make, write or pass a fake, altered, or forged check in order to attain cash, property or services. This must be done knowingly, with fraudulent intent, and represented as a genuine check.
To better understand the elements of this crime here are some definitions of types of check fraud.
– A fraudulent check is a fake check, such as one from a non-existent bank or endorsed by a person who doesn’t exist.
– An altered check is one that has been added to, had things erased or changed to cause it to look different from its original form or changed its legal effect.
Intent to Defraud
– The intent to defraud means that you purposely meant to deceive someone out of money or property.
Represented as a Genuine Check
– Representing a fictitious or fake check as a real one shows that you had the intent to defraud.
Penalties for Check Fraud
Check fraud is charged under California’s forgery laws. This crime is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on your criminal history and the facts of the case. It can only be a misdemeanor if the forged check was less than $950 and the defendant has not been charged with identity theft. As a misdemeanor the penalties include:
Up to one year in a county jail, and
A maximum fine of $1,000.
If charged as a felony the penalties include:
Probation and up to one year in a county jail, or
Sixteen months, two or three years in a county jail, and/or
A maximum fine of $10,000.
Legal Defenses for Check Fraud
An experienced criminal defense lawyer is necessary to fight the charges against check fraud. Here are some of the most common legal defenses.
Not done with fraudulent intent
If you don’t intend to commit a fraud then you can’t be guilty of it. This could mean that you wrote yourself a check but never intended to cash it or put it into a bank account. It could also mean that passed a fake or altered check but didn’t know that you were doing so.
You had consent
Sometimes there are situations where you were given permission to alter a check by signing a name or changing the amount on the check. If you were given permission by the person that is legally allowed to sign the check or change the amount, then you are not guilty of check fraud.