Check Fraud – Charges and Defenses
Many of us use checks every day to pass money between ourselves and our friends and family or to make payments to banks and other financial institutions. If you're charged with check fraud by some mistake, it's important to know what you may face during the case and how a California criminal defense attorney can help.
What is Check Fraud?
Check fraud is a pretty cut and dry charge that's clearly defined by California Penal Code 476. This Penal Code requires that, in order for a conviction to take place, the prosecution must prove that:
- The defendant possessed, made, passed, use, or otherwise came into the possession of a false and/or altered check, note, bill, or any other legal writing used for the payment of money or property AND
- The defendant knew the document or note was false or altered AND
- They used the false or altered document or note with the intention of defrauding another person or company AND
- They intended the document or note to be taken as genuine
In other words, multiple levels of intent must be proven for you to be convicted of check fraud. This offers opportunities for legal counsel to create an effective defense.
What Possible Penalties Exist?
Technically, those convicted of check fraud are guilty of forgery, which is a so-called “wobbler” offense in California. Thus, it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.
If charged as a misdemeanor, check fraud includes penalties like:
- Up to $1000 in fines
- Up to one year in county jail
If charged as a felony, you may face penalties including:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Up to three years in county jail
Defenses to Charges of Check Fraud
Your California criminal defense attorney can present multiple defenses to help you avoid a conviction.
No Intent to Defraud
If there wasn't any intent behind handing someone a false or altered note or check, you can't be charged with check fraud. For instance, handing a false check to a bank teller with the intent of them taking possession of the check and using it to track down the original creator is the act of a good Samaritan, not a crime.
No Knowledge of Alterations
Similarly, you can't be charged with check fraud if you believed the note or check to be genuine and accurate when you used it. This protects people who use false or altered notes that they received from another person and otherwise believed to be legitimate.
Had Consent to Make Changes to a Check
If you have the correct authorization to make changes to a check, you can't be charged with check fraud. This protects bank employees and legal check writers who may alter a check before giving it to the bank or another person.
Why You Need a California Criminal Defense Attorney
Any check fraud case can be complex, and they're all very time-sensitive. There's no time to lose, which is why you should contact the law offices of Peter James Chambers today to get a free consultation and start one of California's best criminal defense attorney working on your case ASAP.