In recent years, check fraud has become much more widespread and problematic, due to the easy availability of software and machinery commonly used to commit this crime, and in response, prosecution of check fraud cases has gained in intensity.
But in the haste to stamp out a surge in the counterfeiting, tampering with, or illegal use of checks, many innocent people find themselves facing check fraud charges as well. And, as the consequences of a check fraud conviction can be severe and long lasting, we at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney are dedicated to the task of helping you defeat check fraud charges or, at minimum, get the charges/sentence reduced.
We will connect you with a well-seasoned attorney who understands both California and federal laws relating to check fraud, is familiar with local Los Angeles and Southern California court processes, and will not settle for anything less than the best possible outcome to your case.
But even with the best of legal help, it also helps to understand the basics of the charges you are facing yourself. In that interest, we have assembled an overview on check fraud defense below for your perusal:
What Is "Check Fraud?"
While it may seem like too basic a question, "What is check fraud?" has a relatively complex answer in the legal world.
First, check fraud is handled under the more general rubric of "forgery" and dealt with under California Penal Code Section 476. It covers a wide range of specific offenses, including manufacturing, using, knowingly passing on, or even attempting to use a "false check" to defraud a payee out of property of value.
The means of accomplishing check fraud include forging a signature, adjusting the dollar-amount on the check, and manufacturing a counterfeit check. It is also possible to commit check fraud by altering a routing number.
Finally, even if the check is genuine and owned by the person using it in attempt to gain funds, if that person knowingly writes it out for an amount beyond the existing balance in order to defraud a bank of funds, he or she can still be charged with check fraud.
In most cases, the attempt to cash a fraudulent check takes advantage of the delay while the check is waiting to clear at the bank. Even if the funds are later supplied to the account, it is possible that you could be charged with check fraud.
Since Check Fraud is counted as a form of forgery, it is punished in basically the same way. It can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Misdemeanor check fraud, generally charged when fraud checks are valued less than $950, is punished as follows:
- Up to a year in county jail
- Up to $1,000 fine
Felony check fraud sentencing elements include:
- 16 months to 3 years in county jail
- A fine of up to $10,000
- A probationary period of up to 3 years, but jail time plus probation will not add up to more than 3 years
What Must the Prosecution Prove?
To gain a conviction on the charge of check fraud, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements of the crime:
- The check in question is, in fact, fraudulent. This can mean it was forged, altered, signed without the permission of the account owner, or used by the account owner himself to attempt to fraudulently access funds.
- The defendant made, used or attempted to use, altered, or passed along the fraudulent check.
- The defendant represented, whether by words or actions, that the said check was genuine, when in fact, it was not.
- The defendant knew the check was fraudulent and had intent to use it to take funds that belonged to another.
Prosecutors will also seek to discover some special motive for committing check fraud, such as to pay a large debt or to make some particular large purchase. They will look for past patterns as well, such as continually floating new purchases and bouncing checks.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we will use any and all of the following defense strategies to defend against charges of check fraud:
- The alleged fraudulent check is actually genuine. This might be a matter of examining the document or of examining the bank balance records.
- The check was fraudulent, but it was not the defendant who committed the fraud. Rather, we have a case of mistaken identity. Since fraudsters take pains to remain "behind the scenes," it is not at all unlikely the wrong person could be accused.
- The defendant may have signed a check for someone else or adjusted a dollar amount, but there was no intent to defraud. The check may have been signed with permission or with the belief that the accused had permission. This often happens with a spouse-spouse or employee-employer relationship.
- The check was so obviously false that no one could truly be expected to take it seriously. It was a harmless prank or something of that nature.
However, saying that you made a fraud check but never cashed it is not a valid defense. And repaying the fraudulently taken money does not erase guilt, though it may well help you to get the charge reduced to "attempted check fraud," which under PC 664 would reduce incarceration time to half of what it would otherwise be.
We will examine your financial records, present evidence of a fraud-free past criminal record, produce witnesses in your favor, challenge fingerprint analyses, and find weaknesses in the prosecution's case to gain you a dismissal or acquittal. Where this is not possible, Negin Yamini can skillfully negotiate a favorable plea agreement.
Contact Us Today for Help
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have the deep knowledge of the California Penal Code and of local L.A. courtroom procedures it takes to gain you the best possible outcome to your case. Negin understand the strategies prosecutors use to try to convict on charges of check fraud, and she knows how to deploy an effective defense.
For a free consultation, contact us 24/7 at 424-333-0943.