False or Bogus Check Laws Include Insufficient Funds
In Oklahoma, writing a false, bogus, or bad check is against the law. Oklahoma law defines a bogus or bad check as any check, order, or electronic fund transfer which is not honored because of insufficient funds. Depending on the amount of the check and how many bad checks you wrote, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or with a felony.
Bad checks also include those drawn on a closed account when the check is given in exchange for money, property or anything of value, or as a down payment for an item that the purchaser is taking immediate possession of, or to a landlord as a rental payment. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1541.4
Any time we give a check to someone, we are promising them that a bank will honor that check. Anytime we write a check knowing there are insufficient funds for the check to be honored, we are defrauding the person we are giving the check to. The law frowns on that. It might seem a minor slight, but writing a check against insufficient funds is check fraud.
Is it a Crime to Write a Bad Check in Oklahoma?
There was a time when a person would count on “float time” when money was tight. Checks took a while to clear the bank, so there was narrow window between the time a check was written and a bank would take money from the checking account. Now, checks are more often cleared electronically. Float time can be a matter of hours or minutes, if at all.
Here is a typical scenario. You are nearing the end of the week. Payday is on Friday, but you need to buy some groceries on Thursday. Instead of waiting until you can deposit your paycheck on Friday, you write the check for groceries on Thursday, counting on the fact that it won’t clear the bank until your paycheck is deposited and can cover the amount of the check.
It might seem like a harmless financial maneuver, but what you have just done is writing a check on an account that has insufficient funds in it to cover the check. In Oklahoma, it is a crime to do that.
Check Fraud and the Knowledge Requirement
So what happens if we just assume there is enough money in the account to cover the check, but in fact there isn’t. We may not have actually intended to write a bad check at all. In essence, the law presumes that if the check is dishonored, that you had the intent, whether to actually did not.
The law states that the making of a check which is dishonored is prima facie evidence of the intent to defraud and of the knowledge that there were insufficient funds. Whether you forgot you wrote a check, an automated payment agreement unexpectedly reduced your balance sooner than expected, someone cashed a check sooner than expected, or bank fees unexpectedly reduced your account, when a check bounces, the law presumes you knew you did not have enough money in the account. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1541.4
In reality, usually what happens is that we realize that we have had a check returned, we pay the person we owe not only the original amount owed but also a returned check fee. But if this happens to you, make reparations quickly. If you do not do so within five days or if there is other evidence of fraud, the matter can be turned over to the district attorney.
Avoid Stiff Penalties: Keep Track of Your Accounts
The law presumes that we keep track of our money. If we fail to do so and write two or more bad checks, the total of which is $1,000 or more, the penalties are harsh. The crime is deemed a felony. If convicted, you can serve up to 10 years in prison, be fined as much as $5,000, or both. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1541.3
Ten years is a long time and a harsh punishment for making poor financial choices. If you have had to make this choice, make a wise choice now and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help protect your freedom.
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