Bad Checks Writing Laws in Arizona


In short, yes, you can go to jail for writing bad checks in Arizona, especially if you don’t have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. In Arizona, issuing a bad check is a serious crime punishable by jail time with big fines. Typically, it’s considered a class one misdemeanor and is covered under the “Issuing Bad Checks” statute of the A.R.S. 13-1807.

However, a conviction is not guaranteed, especially since there are several defenses that can be used. Whether or not you get convicted of writing a bad check in Arizona depends on the circumstances and the strength of the defense on your side.

What Does it Mean To Issue a Bad Check?

A bad check is issued anytime an individual knowingly provides a check to a payee from a connected bank account that doesn’t have sufficient funds. As a result, the bank will not honor the check, leaving the recipient without the means to cash it.

Generally, there are three types of bad checks:

  • Non-sufficient funds (NSF) checks – An NSF check is issued when there are not enough funds in the bank account to cover the amount of the check and other liabilities, like other checks or processing fees.
  • Stop payment checks – This happens when the person who issues a check tells the bank to stop the payment so the recipient cannot cash it.
  • Non-existent account checks — A bad check can also be issued for a non-existent bank account or a bank account that was closed.

With the several types of bad checks, it’s possible for someone to issue a bad check without malice. If a person is unaware of the amount left in their bank account, they may unintentionally write a bad check. Someone who issues a bad check unintentionally will often be given a chance to correct the issue by paying the funds before charges are filed.

If an individual is charged with a bad check, it’s up to the prosecution to prove that the person knowingly issued a check that the bank would not honor due to insufficient funds in their account.

Penalties for Writing Bad Checks

In general, writing a bad check is a class one misdemeanor, and the punishment for writing bad checks ranges from zero to six months in jail and possibly probation, depending on your criminal record. Along with paying back the full amount of the fraudulent check, you may be subjected to a maximum of a $2500 fine plus an 84% surcharge on the amount.

Still, each case will be different, and the penalties for writing bad checks depend on the nature of the situation, the reason for the check bouncing, and whether you have a history of writing bad checks.

However, issuing a bad check in the amount of $5000 or more can result in a class six felony if:

  1. The person fails to pay the full amount of the check plus accrued 12 percent annual interest and any additional fees
  2. The person does not pay the full amount within sixty days of the check bouncing
  3. They have received formal notice of the bad check in accordance with A.R.S. 13-1808 and have not paid within 12 days after receiving it.

A class six felony can result in a punishment of between four months to two years in prison. Repeat offenders may see harsher consequences—for a second offense, the punishment ranges between nine months and two years and nine months. A third offense can lead to a prison sentence of up to five years and nine months.

Possible Defenses for Bad Checks

Writing a bad check can come with serious consequences, but only if the prosecution can prove that you knowingly did so and intended to mislead the recipient despite insufficient funds in your bank account. 

With the right defense lawyer by your side, there are multiple defenses you can build to potentially prevent you from facing hefty fines or jail time.

There are three common defenses for issuing bad checks that JacksonWhite could use to protect you:

  1. The first defense is if the payee is aware that the payer doesn’t have sufficient funds in the account at the time that the check is received, and the payee is informed that they should process the check in a few days when the funds are available, but instead, the payee cashes it right away anyway.
  2. The second defense is similar to the first but involves a postdated check. This occurs when there is a later date at which the check is to be cashed, and at that time, the connected bank account would have had enough funds.
  3. The third defense is if there is an insufficient amount of funds in the defendant’s account because of bank service charges that the account holder was completely unaware of.

The prosecution is also allowed to provide additional evidence to prove intent to distribute a bad check, which can affect the strength of your defense. Navigating the legal process on your own can be a significant challenge, and building the right defense can be easier said than done, so it’s a good idea to have an experienced bad check lawyer by your side.

Find a Bad Check Lawyer In Arizona

​​Knowingly writing a bad check in Arizona is a crime and can come with hefty fines, and you can potentially go to jail for writing one. On the bright side, if you are charged with writing bad checks, it’s not guaranteed that you will face a harsh conviction if you have the right attorney defending you.

There are several potential defenses that can protect you from a conviction and harsh penalties. Whether it was the result of a misunderstanding or an honest mistake, a good defense attorney can help you combat bad check charges.

JacksonWhite is an acclaimed firm for our outstanding work representing clients in the Phoenix metro area and throughout Arizona. If you’ve been charged with distributing a bad check, we can help you build a strong defense with the goal of reducing or eliminating these charges. 

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 418-4281 to discuss your case today.

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