Most everyone on some occasion has mistakenly written a check when there wasn’t enough money in their account to cover it. Those mistakes can come with hefty fees from the bank and the payee.

When someone intentionally writes a check knowing there’s not enough money to cover it, however, that’s a crime. So is writing checks on accounts that don’t exist or have been closed. These are all commonly referred to as “bad checks” or “hot checks.” Using them is a type of fraud or theft.

What does New Jersey law say?

In New Jersey, as in other states, the degree of the crime for someone convicted of passing a bad check (as well as other negotiable instruments or electronic transactions) varies depending on the amount. 

Any amount that’s under $200 is considered a disorderly persons offense (similar to a misdemeanor in other states). Amounts above $200 are considered second, third or fourth degree crimes (similar to felonies), depending on the amount.

People may write bad checks when they’re desperate

Even people who would never consider intentionally passing a bad check or making an electronic funds transfer when they knew that ultimately they wouldn’t have the funds to cover it can lose perspective when they’re in casinos and caught up in a winning (or losing) streak. Other people pass bad checks because they’re in a dire financial situation and need to make a purchase or repay a debt for which they don’t have the money.

Whatever the situation, if you find yourself facing charges for passing a bad check, you need to take the matter seriously. If convicted, even if you don’t serve jail time, this conviction could haunt you for many years. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights and work to mitigate the consequences.