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Los Angeles Check Fraud Lawyers

March 26, 2018 Personal Injury

You attempt to cash a $1,000 check at a bank. The teller learns or notices that the bank on which the check was drawn doesn’t exist. You now find yourself charged with “check fraud.”

The California check fraud law is found at California Penal Code 476. The crime occurs when you (1) make, write, pass, possess or attempt to make, write or pass a fake, altered or forged check, (2) do so with fraudulent intent, and (3) represented the check as genuine. Within the fraudulent intent lies the element that you knew the check was fake, altered or forged at the time you presented it.

A Closer Look at the Elements

 

Fake, Altered or Forged Check

Fake, or fictitious checks, include those:

*Written or drawn on a bank that does not exist
*Endorsed by a person who doesn’t exist or uses a false name
*Made by a non-existent person or entity

If the bank on which the check is drawn exists and the maker had an account at it, the fact that the account was closed or had insufficient funds does not support a conviction for check fraud. It may constitute a “bad check” in violation of California Penal Code 476a.

In an altered check case, the defendant changes the original appearance of the check and the legal consequences or effect of it. As examples of “altered checks”

*Increasing the original amount of the check;
*Erasing and replacing the payee of the check;
*Changing the account, routing or check number

You forge a check by signing another’s name to the check. Forging a check is also a crime under California Penal Code 470.

Intending to Defraud

The prosecutor can prove your intent to defraud from circumstances even without words expressing your intent. Presenting the check can itself be evidence of your fraudulent intent. It does not matter if the bank or person from whom you attempted to cash the check actually paid you or someone was otherwise harmed. The intent to get paid from the check creates the intent.

Defenses

 

Permission

The lack of authority is a major pillar in a check from prosecution. Thus, if the person whose name is on the signature line allowed or asked you to sign her or his name, then you have not forged the check. Similarly, consent to change the payee or amount also prevents a conviction for check fraud.

Beware that you don’t rely on permission from one who can’t give it. For example, another person cannot authorize you to write a check on a non-existent bank, forge someone else’s name or otherwise participate in another’s criminal or fraudulent scheme.

Lack of Knowledge of Falsity

Fraudulent intent lies at the heart of a check fraud charge. You can negate such intent if you didn’t know the check was altered, fake or forged. This may happen when you take a check as payment from a customer or a debtor of yours. If no one tells you that the check is fraudulent or you didn’t observe signs of it on the check, then presenting it for payment is not check fraud.

To avoid prosecution and financial losses, merchants will often request an identification card and run checks through a scanner.

Punishment

If the amount of the check does not exceed $950 and you didn’t steal another’s identity in violation of California Penal Code 503.5, then check fraud is a misdemeanor. You face up to one year in a county jail and a fine up to $1,000 if the crime can only be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

Otherwise, the prosecutor can choose to treat check fraud as a felony. For felonious check fraud, the penalties include probation and a one-year term in county jail or either 16 months or two to three years in county jail. You also may be fined up to $10,000.

If you, a family member or friend is charged with check fraud, one of our check fraud attorneys can sp eak with you and gather and examine the evidence against you and your prior record.

Los Angeles Check Fraud Lawyers

With all the security measures in place, check fraud and passing bad checks has become less frequent. However, there are still many cases that go before the court for this type of matter. When a person writes and passes a check that has been forged to obtain money or a possession, they are violating the California-PC 476 for check fraud. When a person writes a check knowing there are no funds to cover the check, they are guilty of PC 476 a.

What is a Fraudulent Check Charge?

A prosecutor must have a strong case against the defendant, and must be able to establish that the person passed or possessed a check that was not legal. It can include checks that are fake, altered or the knowledge that one was fraudulent. Additionally, the prosecution must be able to show that the defendant has the intent to pass the check as their property and genuine. It can be a check from a fake account, a fake person, or a real account with a check that is altered. The amount, routing number, name, or payee of the check can be fraudulently changed too.

The charges for this type of crime fall under the category as a “wobbler.” This means that the prosecutor can file that charges as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In many cases, they initially file them as a felony, and a skilled attorney can get the charges reduced. The events of each case will be reviewed and also the defendant’s prior criminal history.

Defending Innocence

Having a defense to a check fraud charge is not always easy, but it can be done. In some cases, a person may have a fake check and not even know it. They may try to cash it at the bank and not even realize they have been paid with a bogus check. In this instance, the defense could be proven and charges dropped. The statute states that a person must have the intent to defraud another. If a person had no knowledge that they were in possession of a bogus check, there is no way they can defraud another. Though the criminal prosecutor will argue that the defendant should have known and that the check looked fake, it can be a hard sell. In a case where both parties alter the check, like the date or name, it is not considered to violate the law. Charges of this degree can be easily fought. Though it is a difficult charge to defend, we will work tirelessly to ensure you see justice.

Passing Bad Checks

In section 476 a, a person who writes a check, without sufficient funds to cover the check, can also be charged with check fraud. In many cases, check fraud and credit card fraud can overlap into a general theft offense in the state of California. Writing bad checks is getting harder to do with new checking devices that verify funds before the check is written, but it still occurs. This offense also falls under the “wobbler” and can go as a felony or misdemeanor. If the amount of the check is over $300, it is automatically classified as a felony.

Whether you have been charged with passing bad checks or check fraud, you need a skilled attorney who is knowledgeable about this area of law. Check fraud and writing checks when there is no money to cover them are serious offenses. However, we have successfully helped several people reduce or clear the charges against them. Call us today for a consultation. We want to help you move past this event and retain your good name.

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