Millions of dollars are lost to Florida citizens and business owners every year due to worthless checks. It is the goal of the State Attorney to obtain full restitution for victims of this crime.
In order to combat passers of worthless checks, our citizens must be familiar with Florida’s worthless check statutes and the procedures required to ensure prosecution of these cases is possible. Our citizens, business owners, and their employees are the first line of defense against worthless check offenders.
What Is A Worthless Check?
It is a criminal offense for any person or company to issue a check, knowing at the time of issuance that there are insufficient funds on deposit with the bank.
The giving of a worthless check is a crime, regardless of whether the maker (person writing the check): received anything of value in exchange for the check; was offering the check in payment of goods already consumed or merchandise to be delivered in the future; was offering the check as payment on an account or as a layaway.
What You Need To Know
PENALTY UPON CONVICTION:
Generally the issuing of a worthless check for $150 or more for services or merchandise is a Third Degree Felony and if convicted the maker of the check could receive up to 5 years in prison and/or $5,000 fine. If the check is for less than $150, the crime is a First Degree Misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in the County Jail and/or $1,000 fine.
FLORIDA'S BAD CHECK LAW PROHIBITS CRIMINAL PROSECUTION IN CASES WHERE:
The person accepting the check has been told, or had reason to believe the writer of the check has insufficient funds to insure payment (for example, you accepted several bad checks from the person in the recent past, accepting a check for a previous bad check); the check is postdated; you agree to hold the check until some date in the future and not present it for immediate cashing. Also be aware that acceptance of partial payment on a prior bad check can preclude you from prosecuting the case criminally.
When a check "bounces", there is imprinted on it or attached to it, the bank's reason for refusing to pay. The introduction of such a dishonored check, with the bank's written or printed reason for refusing to pay it, is EVIDENCE of the maker's knowledge of insufficient funds!
PROBLEMS OF CONVICTION - IDENTIFICATION:
The frequency of the use of checks in modern commerce has made it impossible, in many instances, for a witness to later testify that he/she specifically remembers who issued a particular check to him/her.
The Florida Legislature, in recognizing the impossibility of criminal prosecution without a legally acceptable identification of the accused, has created certain identification presumptions.
To take advantage of these legal identification presumptions, the following information, regarding the identity of the party presenting the check, should be obtained by the party accepting the check:
The identification shall be written upon the check itself unless a check cashing card procedure is used.
IN ORDER FOR THIS EVIDENCE TO BE ACCEPTED BY THE COURT, the store or other recipient must carefully comply with the recording of EVERY DETAIL of identification outlined above. Failure to record even one of the named requirements for identification could deny the Prosecutor benefit of the identification presumption.
Where a check card procedure is used, the accepting party shall record on the check the check cashing card identification number. Such check cashing card shall be issued only after information has been placed on file by the merchant and the card contains the signature of the cardholder.
It should be noted that Prosecution of Bad Checks drawn on out-of-state banks is very difficult and the acceptance of out-of-state Driver's Licenses as identification on checks is discouraged as it may result in the prosecution being unable to obtain enough legal identification to prosecute. Recommend to your customers that they obtain a Department of Highway Safety Identification Card that is very similar to a Florida Driver's License if they are to be cashing checks in Florida.
The check must be signed or endorsed in the presence of the person accepting the check and the clerk or acceptor MUST INITIAL and date the check acknowledging this fact.
CHECKS RECEIVED BY MAIL:
If a check is received through the mail or from a representative of the maker the proof of the identification of the maker is very difficult.
PROSECUTION/RESTITUTION AND SERVICE CHARGE:
After a check has been returned from the bank marked "Insufficient Funds" or "Account Closed", a service charge based on the amount of the check may be added to the check when making written demand for payment. The service charges are as follows:
Once noticed, the accused maker of the worthless check will have fifteen (15) days to make restitution, including the service charge, before prosecution through the State Attorney's Office will be commenced. The law exempts the holder of the check from civil liability for proceeding with such action when the NOTICE procedure is used as outlined above.
The next step, after completing the procedures outlined, is to report the matter to the proper authorities. This can be done by going to your local law enforcement agency or the State Attorney's Office and filling out a Worthless Check Affidavit.