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If you have been charged with worthless check, bad check, or bounced check under Florida law, contact an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Attorney for a free consultation. A conviction for issuing worthless, bounced, or bad checks in Florida can result in serious criminal penalties, including imprisonment. The offense is also a “crime of dishonesty,” and carries with it a stigma that can destroy one’s reputation and permanently interfere with employment applications, college applications, and future financial dealings.

Definition of Worthless Check or Bad Check- Florida Law

Under Florida Law, it is illegal for any person, firm, or corporation to obtain any services, goods, wares, or other things of value by means of a check, draft, or other written order upon any bank, person, firm, or corporation, knowing at the time of the making, drawing, uttering, issuing, or delivering of such check or draft that the maker thereof has not sufficient funds on deposit in or credit with such bank or depository with which to pay the same upon presentation.

Worthless check cases are governed by Florida Statutes Section 832.05. Although most prosecutions under the statute are directed at “bounced” or “bad” checks, the statute applies to a variety of orders to pay money and “commercial paper,” and to a variety of types of drawees and transactions.  It even applies to debit cards.

To prove the crime of worthless check under Florida Statute Section 832.05(4) (the most common subsection used by the State Attorney in Jacksonville), the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. the defendant “drew” or “uttered” or “issued” or delivered a check (or other qualifying payment order or commercial paper);
  2. the defendant did so to obtain services, goods, wares, or other things of value;
  3. the services, goods, wares, or other things alleged had some monetary value;
  4. when the defendant did so, there were insufficient funds on deposit in the bank to pay the check;
  5. the defendant knew (when the check was written) that there were insufficient funds in the bank, and
  6. the defendant knew there was no arrangement or understanding with the bank for the payment of the check.

When is Issuance of a Worthless or Bad Check a Crime?

Florida’s worthless / bounced check law does not criminalize the mere writing a check when there are inadequate funds in your bank account.  The law requires the prosecution to show that the accused knew (at the time the check was made or issued) that there were insufficient funds in his or her account.  Thus, there is a knowledge element that must be proven.

However, in any prosecution for bad check  or bounced check violations, the making, drawing, uttering, or delivery of a check (or other payment order), which is later refused by the bank because of lack of funds in the accused’s account, is prima facie evidence of intent to defraud or knowledge of insufficient funds.  Thus, where the accused issues a bad check, a rebuttable presumption is created that the accused knew there were insufficient funds to cover the payment order represented by the check.  The only exception is where the accused (the check maker and issuer) pays the holder of the instrument (the person who was to be paid with the check) the total amount due, together with applicable service fees, within 15 days after the holder sends written notice of the bad check, bounced check, or worthless check.

No crime may be charged in respect to the giving of a worthless or bad check when the payee (the person receiving the check or payment order) knows, has been expressly notified, or has reason to believe that the accused did not have on deposit sufficient funds in the bank to ensure payment.  However, the previous issuance of a bad check by the accused is insufficient to put the payee on notice.

Penalties for Worthless Check- Florida

Where the check issued by the defendant is in an amount less than $150.00, the offense is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail.  Where the check is in an amount of $150.00 or more, the offense is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.

Defenses to Worthless or Bad Check Charges- Florida Law

There are many defenses available under Florida law to contest a charge of worthless check, bad check, or bounced check.  The reality for most prosecutors in Jacksonville and elsewhere in Florida is that worthless check cases are labor-intensive and difficult to prove. Often, with a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer at your side, these cases can be resolved through diversion programs or in a manner that spares the accused of a technical conviction.

When diversionary programs are not available, numerous defenses and strategies exist to fight the charge.  Common defense issues can include the following:

A Florida prosecution for worthless check, bad check, or bounced check is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly.  In appropriate cases, a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer can raise defenses on your behalf to contest the charge or mitigate its negative consequences. If you have been accused, contact an experienced Jacksonville Worthless Check Defense Attorney for a free consultation.