It happens. You write a check, and you don’t have enough money in your account. This is particularly common during the holiday season—you are spending more than usual, and buying gift after gift makes it hard to keep track of how much you have left in your checking account.
But, if you write a bad check, are you guilty of a crime? In New Jersey, the answer is, “Maybe.”
When is Writing a Bad Check a Crime in New Jersey?
Section 2C:21-5 of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice makes it a crime to “knowingly” write a bad check. So, if you accidentally wrote a check for more than you had available, you are not a criminal under New Jersey law. But, if you knew you were spending money you didn’t have, then you could be at risk for criminal prosecution.
How can prosecutors prove that you knowingly wrote a bad check? Although it might seem difficult to prove that you knew you were overspending, prosecutors actually have several options.
For example, under Section 2C:21-5, it is presumed that you knew you were writing a bad check if (i) you didn’t have an active account when you wrote the check, or (ii) you failed to deposit enough money within 10 days of receiving a notice of insufficient funds. While it is possible to overcome this presumption, this can be an uphill battle.
Prosecutors can use various forms of evidence to prove that you acted knowingly. For example, did you post about your holiday shopping spree online? Did you spend far more than you typically have available? If so, prosecutors may use this to argue that you knew your checks would bounce when the stores you visited presented them for payment.
What are the Consequences of Writing a Bad Check in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the consequences of knowingly writing a bad check depend on the amount of the check. The penalties under New Jersey’s bad check statute are as follows:
- Bad Check for Less Than $200 – Up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail (disorderly persons offense)
- Bad Check for Between $200 and $999 – Up to a $10,000 fine and 18 months in prison (fourth-degree indictable crime)
- Bad Check for Between $1,000 and $74,999 – Up to a $15,000 fine and three to five years in prison (third-degree indictable crime)
- Bad Check for $75,000 or More – Up to a $150,000 five and 5 to 10 years in prison
Given these severe penalties, if you are facing a charge under section 2C:21-5 for writing a bad check, you should seek legal representation promptly. You could have defenses available even if you knew you were writing a bad check, but you will need to hire an experienced New Jersey municipal court lawyer to help you argue your defenses effectively.
Talk to a New Jersey Municipal Court Lawyer About Your Bad Check Case
Were you charged with writing a bad check in New Jersey? Get the proper legal guidance you need and learn about your options under the law from a skilled professional. Contact a legal professional online for a confidential consultation.