Check fraud, or writing a bad check to pay for goods or services, is a serious offense in Colorado. Depending on the amount of money in question, penalties may include felony or misdemeanor charges.
Colorado Revised Statute 18.5.205 is the Colorado statute that defines the crime of check fraud. This statute makes it unlawful to issue a check with the intention of defrauding someone for payment of goods and services.
Jeffrey Weeden is an experienced white-collar crime attorney serving the Denver area. Mr. Weeden understands fraud penalties can be severe even if the crime itself seems negligible. In the following post, Mr. Weeden will explain exactly what check fraud entails, as well as some legal defenses to the accusation.
What is Check Fraud?
Check fraud is when a person uses fake, forged, or deceptive checks to achieve some personal or financial gain. This might include forging a signature on a check, forging an endorsement, or purposely writing bad checks. Most of the time, individuals commit this crime. But occasionally, businesses and corporations commit this type of fraud.
Writing “bad” checks is the most common form of check fraud. A “bad” check is a check you write when you do not have sufficient funds to cover it. For instance, if you write a check for $400 but only have $100 in your account at the time of withdrawal, that could be considered fraudulent. It is really only considered fraudulent in Colorado if you are fully aware you will not have $400 in the bank at the time of withdrawal.
Most people, when they think about fraud, they think about insurance fraud or pyramid schemes. But check fraud is much the same; a person has used deception for their own gain.
The main element of check fraud is that there was an intention to defraud or mislead a person or institution. This does not mean the institution or person suffered an injury or measurable loss. For example, committing check fraud for a $24 item at Walmart, a multibillion-dollar company, does not really injure Walmart. But there are still both federal and state laws against fraudulence.
Examples of Check Fraud
Check fraud can happen in a variety of ways, and penalties will differ depending on the circumstances including the following:
- Forging a check, either with a fake ID or with a fake signature
- Knowingly writing checks on a closed account. Some people call this practice “paperhanging”.
- Counterfeiting checks
- Check kiting. Check kiting is a white-collar crime that involves using multiple accounts to manipulate the amount of money in each account. This involves writing a check from one of your accounts to the other account, for more money than the first account contains. Before the first bank clears the check, you quickly withdraw the money from the second account and put it back in the first account to conceal the transfer.
False or fraudulent checks can also be the basis of a larger scam. Someone might have another person endorse a fake check to obtain their personal information.
Have You Been Accused of Check Fraud?
Computers, smartphones and increases in technology have all made check fraud increasingly easier. Twenty years ago, someone essentially needed to break into your home or car and steal your checkbook, in order to commit check fraud. Now, with the use of editing programs and desktop file management, it’s completely possible for someone to copy or manipulate your information.
Several ways to commit check fraud exist and sometimes, innocent people are caught up in the unfortunate circumstances. If you’ve been wrongfully accused of check fraud, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.
Innocent people are convicted every day of crimes they did not commit. At WeedenLaw, we want to prevent small mistakes from having a major impact on your life. The best way to ensure this is to offer an aggressive defense for your case. You may not have meant any harm or may not have even been aware of what was happening at the time. Our goal is to mitigate any damage to your future.
Can You Go To Jail For Depositing A Fake Check: Check Fraud Penalties
Fraudulence can result in criminal or civil charges. If it is a criminal charge, depending on the severity of the crime, this can involve misdemeanor or felony charges.
The type of offense and the resulting penalty depends on the value of the fraud.
Less than $50
Check fraud with a value of less than $50 is a Class 1 Petty Offense. Penalties involve up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Between $50 and $300
If you commit check fraud for a value greater than $50 but less than $300, you are facing a Class 3 Misdemeanor in Colorado. This may result in up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $750.
Between $300 and $750
In Colorado, check fraud for a value greater than $300 but less than $750 is a Class 2 Misdemeanor. Penalties for this amount include 3 to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $750.
Between $750 and $2000
Check fraud penalties for an amount between $750 and $2000 include 6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $500. It is a Class 1 Misdemeanor. These are the worst form of misdemeanor Colorado courts can charge its citizens with.
$2000 or More
This is a Class 6 Felony in Colorado. Check fraud penalties for an amount greater than $2000 could include 12 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.
This is the lowest class of felony in Colorado. Despite this, a felony charge will follow you for the rest of your life. It may prevent you from getting a job, or a place to live. It will show up on background checks.
Other Forms of Check Fraud and their Penalties
If an individual is involved in two or more incidents of check fraud within a 60-day period, Colorado courts will combine those amounts and charge them like one offense.
For instance, if you commit three instances of check or bank fraud in the month of December, each for $40, you will not face three class 1 petty offenses. You will be facing one Class 3 Misdemeanor charge.
When the defendant has no bank account, or if they closed the bank account more than 30 days ago, is a class 6 felony. The penalties for this are felony penalties, no matter the amount.
Opening a checking account using false identification or an assumed name is a class 2 misdemeanor.
In addition to criminal penalties, the court may require the defendant to pay restitution for all unpaid checks.
There are also federal laws against check fraud. The federal government’s broad definition of bank fraud embodies this. Penalties at the federal level can be very steep, and include up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine up to $1 million.
There are other crimes that dovetail with check fraud. Passing a bad check is a criminal offense, even without intent to defraud. Identity theft charges may also be relevant when a defendant uses another person’s information to pass off a bad check.
Legal Defenses to Check Fraud
There are a few possible defenses to check fraud. To convict you, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to commit fraud. Thus the most effective defense is that you simply did not know the check was bad. Some other defenses may be:
- If you stop payment on a bad check before an insufficient funds notice returns,
- If the issuer of the check was intoxicated or otherwise mentally incompetent
- Coercion or duress. If someone forces you to commit fraud under threat of economic loss or physical injury
Jeffrey Weeden is a fierce and determined advocate for all of his clients. If you or someone you know is facing check fraud charges, call WeedenLaw at 720-307-4330. Don’t face the Colorado courts alone; consult an attorney who can achieve the best possible outcome for you. You can schedule a free consultation over the phone 24/7, or you can request your consultation by filling out the contact form on our website.