Writing a bad check (worthless check) as a form of payment for goods or services is a serious offense in Florida. This is because it is considered a crime of dishonesty or deceit according to our Broward Criminal Lawyers. Contact us directly if you wish to discuss an open case for check fraud. We also provide Criminal Representation in Broward County.
A negotiable instrument is considered a bad check or worthless when it is returned for NSF (Non Sufficient Funds), NSF Unless Otherwise Indicated, Account Not Found, or Unauthorized Drawer’s Signature’s. Writing a bad check is considered to be a form of Fraud under Florida law.
Checks that are stamped with Stop Payment, Uncollected Funds, or Refer to Maker, are also subject to investigation, and charges can be filed if there is any attempt to fraud involved. However, a worthless check may be written without malicious intent and could be due to calculation errors or any other unintentional act by the writer of the check that may cause the bank to return the check.
Writing a Bad check Diversion Program in Florida
A Diversion Program was developed by Florida Legislature in 1986 for educating first time worthless check offenders, and for such offenders to avoid prosecution. The program handles all worthless check cases, except checks marked Stop Payment, and stolen or forged checks. The program offers a way for avoiding prosecution, provided the business or person who had passed the worthless check is able to immediately indemnify the receiver for the amount of the check, along with certain service fees. For participating in the program, the guilty party must provide proof that they have paid full restitution of the check/s to the victim, and also pay a fee to the Office of State Attorney. This fee will be around $25 to $40, depending on the amount of the worthless check. - Broward County Criminal Attorney
The State Attorney has the authority to determine if the guilty person can qualify for the Diversion Program. Eligibility is determined based on background of the worthless check writer, including past criminal record, and any pending worthless check complaints against the writer. The worthless check amount and any evidence of defrauding the victim is also considered while deciding eligibility for the program.
If the writer of the worthless check has qualified for participating in the program, the Office of the State Attorney will dispatch a letter to the person, providing fifteen days’ time to restitute the amount to the victim and gather proof of such restitution. The guilty person then has to bring this proof to the Worthless Check Division office and pay the service fee. The worthless check writer is then made to watch a video and given a handout, which provides full details of laws for worthless check in Florida, and the procedure one should follow for preventing any further occurrence of worthless checks. - Fort Lauderdale Theft Lawyer
Penalties and Punishment
When the guilty party does not qualify for the Worthless check Diversion Program, the prosecution has already begun. Passing worthless checks is considered White Collar Crime in Florida, and there are different penalties depending on the amount of worthless check and nature of the crime. When worthless check for an amount less than $150 has Stop Payment notification, it is considered a second-degree misdemeanor involving a maximum penalty of $500 fine and a jail term of 60 days.
If the notification on the check is Insufficient Funds for the same amount then it is considered first-degree misdemeanor, attracting a penalty of $1,000, and maximum one-year’s jail. For worthless check amounts more than $150, it is considered third-degree felony attracting a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.
According to Florida law the authority for prosecuting a worthless check offense, lies with Florida’s State Attorneys of the 20 Judicial Circuits. Usually, the prosecuting authority will be the attorney of the judicial circuit in which the worthless check was accepted and presented. If for any reason the circuit attorney is unable to prosecute, a civil suit can be filed in small claims court of the county in which the worthless check was accepted.
Q:Is my attorney correct in that I may be eligible for diversion following my arrest for writing a worthless check?
A: In Broward County, diversion is available but not guaranteed,” explains Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer William R. Moore
Diversion is available as an option, however, this is up to the discretion of the prosecutor. Many State Attorney's will fight the defense attorney on this issue. How to approach the State on this depends on the nature of the alleged facts.
By: Attorney William R. Moore