In the digital age, paying with a check is so rare it is almost a wonder in and of itself. However, while most people have a general idea of how to use checks, some of the finer points of legality surrounding the use of checks and the consequences for misuse are less obvious.
Paying with a bogus check is a crime, but what is it and what are the consequences? Keep reading to find out.
Checks have been used in one form or another since ancient times extending back to early Rome. However, it was not until 1717 that the Bank of England issued preprepared checks. In the 20th century, the use of checks reached their peak until use slowed in the wake of debit cards.
A check is an instrument – a bill of exchange – signed and dated, that is essentially an order for money to the bank. The individual writing the check indicates the date and reason for the request and signs the check. The recipient can accept the check by endorsing it and signing on the signature line on the back of the check.
Checks can be used to withdraw or deposit money into a person’s bank account. Typically, a check is connected with a checking account but can be linked to other accounts as well. Some businesses have business expenditure accounts that executives may write a check to.
Features and Benefits
Checks are composed of generally the same elements including the name and contact information of the account holder and the name of the bank and account number somewhere on the front.
When filling out a check, the payor must:
- Indicate the date
- Include the payee’s name on the first line of the check in the “Pay to the Order Of” section
- Indicate the amount of the check in dollar figures and written out in words
- Sign their name to ensure that the check is valid
The memo line is not necessarily required, but it is helpful for record keeping sake to indicate the reason for the check. Reasons can be indicated through a few short words like “rent,” “reimbursement for work dinner,” etc.
There are also different types of checks that offer different features. Certified checks are verified and guarantee that the payor’s account has enough money to honor the check amount. Essentially, it is impossible for a certified check to bounce. Checks “bounce” when there is not enough money in the connected checking account.
Cashier’s checks are guaranteed by the bank and signed by a bank cashier which means that the bank is responsible for the amount. These checks are often used for large lump-sum payments like mortgage down payments, rent, etc.
Payroll checks are used by the compensation department and are issued by the employer to pay an agreed upon amount to the employee. Physical paychecks can be mailed or given directly to the employee.
Bogus checks are checks for an amount that does not exist. Essentially, when a check bounces, it can become a bogus check if the payor had knowledge of their lack of funds. However, if the payor did not know that they had inadequate funds in their account, other powers may be at work.
In some cases, a bogus check is an indicator of fraud. Fraud may occur when a person takes another individual’s checkbook and issues a check in their name by forging their signature. In these cases, the account holder likely has no knowledge of the check or the fact that it was issued for an amount that does not match their available funds.
Penalties for Bogus Checks
Bogus checks are considered theft checks and can be charged as theft. As mentioned previously however, if the check was issued without the account holder’s knowledge or they did not realize the lack of money in their account, it is simply a bounced check and is not a crime.
If the check is the result of fraud, Oklahoma may prosecute the case as a theft case which can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the amount falsely promised or the value of the item or service purchased with the bogus check.
Intent is key in these cases, and the prosecution will need to provide concrete evidence that the account holder did not have knowledge of the bogus check or did not intentionally submit a check for inadequate funds. The state will assume that the account holder had knowledge of the issue and will operate on the assumption that the payor is responsible for committing fraud.
If you have been charged with writing a bogus check, contact Nichols Dixon PLLC immediately. Our attorneys can defend you against false accusations and protect your interests in court.