While technological advances have led to more people paying for goods or services with plastic debit cards or through other online accounts, some people do still occasionally write physical checks as a form of payment. When a check is returned to the payee because the party who wrote the check did not have adequate funds to cover the amount the check was written for, it is often referred to as a worthless check.
Worthless checks also go by such names as non-sufficient funds (NSF) checks, bogus checks, bounced checks, or rubber checks. While many alleged offenders accused of writing worthless checks legitimately thought they had sufficient funds to cover the amounts written, it is important to understand that writing a bad check in Florida can result in both criminal and civil penalties.
Lawyer for Worthless Checks Arrests in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Were you arrested or charged with allegedly writing a worthless check in South Florida? You should not make any kind of statement to authorities without legal counsel. Contact Meltzer & Bell right now for help protecting your rights.
Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell represent clients accused of various economic offenses in communities throughout Broward County, including Pembroke Pines, Plantation, Hollywood, Pompano Beach, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Miramar, and many others. You can have our lawyers provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call (954) 765-6585 to set up a free, confidential consultation.
Overview of Worthless Checks in Broward County
- When can people be charged with writing bad checks?
- What are the consequences of being convicted of this crime?
- Where can I find more information about worthless checks in Broward County?
Under Florida Statute § 832.05, it is illegal “for any person, firm, or corporation to draw, make, utter, issue, or deliver to another party any check, draft, or other written order on any bank or depository, or to use a debit card, for the payment of money or its equivalent, knowing at the time of the drawing, making, uttering, issuing, or delivering such check or draft, or at the time of using such debit card, that the maker or drawer thereof has not sufficient funds on deposit in or credit with such bank or depository with which to pay the same on presentation.” The statute applies to paper checks as well as drafts, bills of exchange, debit card orders, and other written money orders for payment.
In order for a prosecutor to convict an alleged offender of obtaining property or services in return for worthless checks, drafts, or debit card orders, Chapter 17.4 of the Florida Jury Instructions requires him or her to prove the six following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The alleged offender drew, made, uttered, issued, or delivered a check, draft, or debit card order;
- The alleged offender did so to obtain services, goods, wares, or some other thing of value alleged;
- The services, goods, wares, or some other thing of value alleged had some monetary value;
- When the alleged offender did so, there was not sufficient money on deposit in the bank to pay the check, draft, or debit card order;
- The alleged offender knew when the check, draft, or debit card order was written there was not sufficient money on deposit with the bank; and
- The alleged offender knew there was no arrangement or understanding with the bank for the payment of the check when it was presented.
Jury instructions in these cases also state that alleged offenders must be found not guilty if the defense proves that the payee knew or had good reason to believe that the alleged offender’s funds and credit at the bank at the time the check was given were insufficient to pay the check.
When a person is accused of obtaining property or services in return for worthless checks, drafts, or debit card orders, the grade of the alleged offense depends on value of the check, draft, or debit card order the alleged offender drew, made, uttered, issued, or delivered:
- Less Than $150 — First-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000; or
- $150 or More — Third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
The possible incarceration and fines that alleged offenders face in criminal courts are only one aspect of possible worthless check penalties. Under Florida Statute § 68.065, an alleged offender who fails to pay an amount owed within 30 days of receiving a written demand for the owed amount can also be civilly liable for all of the following in addition to the amount owed:
- Treble damages (triple the amount of the actual damages);
- Courts costs; and
- Reasonable attorney fees.
Broward County | Bad Check Restitution Program — Broward County established a Bad Check Restitution Program in accordance with Florida Statute § 832.08. The program allows certain alleged offenders to avoid criminal prosecution by attending a mandatory intervention class and making full restitution to the alleged victim. An alleged offender has 15 days to remit payment, otherwise the alleged victim can file a report by contacting the Bad Check Restitution Program.
Office of the State Attorney
Broward County Judicial Complex
201 Southeast 6th Street, Suite 655
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301
How to Protect Yourself: Worthless Bank Checks — Visit this website to learn what is actually considered a worthless check in Florida. As this section of the Attorney General’s website notes, checks returned “NSF,” “Account Not Found,” or “NSF Unless Otherwise Indicated” are subject to prosecution, but checks stamped “Refer To Maker” or “Uncollected Funds” can require additional investigation. Checks returned “Unauthorized Drawer’s Signature(s)” should be presented to the Sheriff’s Office or local authorities for investigations. Checks stamped “Stop Payment” can be subject to criminal prosecution, but are usually resolved in small claims court civil suits.
Meltzer & Bell | Fort Lauderdale Worthless Checks Defense Attorney
If you were charged with or arrested for allegedly writing a bad check in Broward County, it will be in your best interest to quickly seek legal representation. Meltzer & Bell defends individuals in Margate, Wilton Manors, Weston, Coconut Creek, Tamarac, Sunrise, Hallandale Beach, Deerfield Beach, and many surrounding areas of South Florida.
Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are experienced criminal defense lawyers in Fort Lauderdale who will work tirelessly to help you achieve the most favorable outcome to your case, including possibly having the criminal charges eliminated. Call (954) 765-6585 or submit an online contact form to have our attorneys review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free initial consultation.