A bad or worthless check is a check that cannot be covered with the funds in the account from which the check is drawn. It is a check that is used to pay a company or individual, but when that company or individual deposits it into their own financial institution, it is returned for insufficient funds. Almost everyone has at one time or another written a check, and crossed their fingers hoping money will clear in time for the check to go through their financial institution. Luckily, most of the time, the check will clear and the check writer can breath a sigh of relief. The kind of check balancing that includes superstitious finger crossing is bound to get a person in trouble eventually. In Oklahoma, that trouble might even include fines and jail time. Oklahoma has strict criminal penalties for check fraud.
A criminal case can be brought against the bad check writer if a few conditions are met. If the check writer passes off bogus checks that, individually or together with other checks around the same period of time, add up to a total of more than $500 dollars, the check writer can be prosecuted for criminal misconduct. A sum that large is thought to provide sufficient evidence of fraud on the part of the worthless check writer and to be a valid reason for prosecution.
There are two separate categories of criminal penalties based on the amount of the bad or worthless checks. One carries a considerable amount of jail time while the other carries less, but both are considered felonies and the fines are relatively similar. The jail time and the fines reflect the seriousness of Oklahoma’s laws.
More than $500 but less than $1,000:
If the check writer tries to pass off one check or multiple checks that add up to more than $500, but less than $1,000, the writer is guilty and will be prosecuted for a felony. The conviction of a felony for fraud is punishable by fines not more than $5,000 that the court can decide to award to the victim of the crime as restitution. The jail time for this felony is up to one year in a county jail.
More than $1,000:
If the amount of one or more checks reaches over $1,000, the check writer is guilty of a felony. The fines can be no more than $5,000. The jail term for the crime of fraud is punishable by up to ten years in a state penitentiary. The punishment could include the jail term or the fine, sometimes both. The presumption is that a person writing a check for that amount of money knows whether or not they have the sufficient funds to cover the check. If they do not, they are thought to be knowingly committing a fraud.
A check writer who unknowingly writes a worthless check will have five days, from the date they find out about the check, to make good on the promise of payment. This does not mean they can avoid the letters that come through the mail or the ignore the phone calls from the receiving company or individual. If the amount of the check is less than $500, and the check writer makes good on the fees and the original amount of the check, the matter may remain a civil matter. Most people understand that mistakes happen, and if the check writer makes every effort to rectify the situation in a timely manner, there will be no prosecution.
As long as the check writer fixes the problem within the five days, the writer will only be responsible for reasonable fees that the payee incurred for the bounced check at their own financial institution. The check writer’s bank will assess a hefty fee for bouncing a check as well. The check writer must pay all fees to the payee plus the original amount of the check. The fees to the check writer’s own bank or credit union are not included in the receiver’s fees. Those must be paid, but they are not part of the process of keeping the bad check writer out of court.
If the evidence we have is substantiated by a court. The party or parties guilty of the fraud are subject to a prison sentence of up to 10 years. This matter amounts to perhaps the largest scale of fraud in Oklahoma history. The law must be applied sternly.
Opinion of the Editor
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David Van Risseghem is the Director of Sooner Politics.org. The resource is committed to informing & mobilizing conservative Oklahomans for civic reform. This endeavor seeks to utilize the efforts of all cooperative facets of the Conservative movement...