Virginia Check Fraud Attorney
The law is anything but straightforward when dealing with check fraud. On one hand, most cases of check fraud involve petit larceny—knowingly bouncing a check to pay a bill or buy groceries, for example. This crime is usually charged as misdemeanor “fraud by check,” depending on the amount.
However, trying to defraud victims either by obtaining their signature in order to forge checks or manufacturing fraudulent checks to commit larceny are both serious felonies. Additionally, if an individual commits check fraud in Virginia and other states, federal prosecution and heavy fines and prison time will likely follow.
Check Fraud in Virginia
In order to convict someone of issuing a bad check in Virginia, the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt these three elements:
- The defendant knew at the time he or she wrote the check that there were not sufficient funds in the bank to cover it.
- The defendant acted with the intent to defraud, which may be proven by circumstantial evidence.
- The check was in payment for goods or services. (Checks that are written to pay a personal debt, for example, do not apply.)
If the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the amount of the check was $200 or more, the charge will be a felony. However, if the check is written for less than $200, it will be a misdemeanor.
When the check is drawn from a bank in which the perpetrator has no account, law enforcement investigators are free to suspect that the check was issued with the expressed intent to defraud. No goods or services need to change hands in order to prove a bad check offense. Further, a person can even be convicted of this offense if the payee learns before presenting the check that it is worthless.
The Commonwealth’s Check Forgery Laws Are Very Intricate
One of the most common forms of check fraud involves forging, and Virginia takes a less-than-traditional position in its criminal laws when applied to forgery. The Commonwealth essentially separates the crime into two distinct offenses: forging and uttering. Those charged with forgery must alter the signature or other information on the check or create copies of a check with the intent to defraud. Uttering, on the other hand, is the attempt to use the forged document, all the time knowing that the check was forged. This distinction creates some rather acute problems for those who are charged with any form of check forgery in Virginia. For example:
- You do not have to commit one offense in order to commit the other:You can forge a check and not utter it, and you can utter a check you haven’t forged.
Both of these crimes are felonies and can be charged separately, so if you forge and utter a check, being charged with two counts of the same fraud crime is possible. This means you can be simultaneously convicted of two different felonies out of the same transaction.
Penalties for Check Fraud Convictions: Why You Need a Good Defense Lawyer
In Virginia, a person convicted of issuing a bad check in an amount over $200 has committed a Class 6 felony and can be sentenced to one to five years imprisonment in a state correctional institution and/or up to twelve (12) months in jail and/or be fined up to $2,500. Issuing a bad check in an amount under $200 is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,500. However, if multiple bad check misdemeanors are committed over a 90 day period to create an aggregate amount in excess of $200, the perpetrator could face a Class 6 felony charge. The penalty is either one to five years in prison, or a discretionary jail sentence of up to 12 months in jail, as well as a fine of up to $2,500.
An experienced Virginia check fraud lawyer understands that check crime charges can be complicated and difficult to both prosecute and defend. We understand how severe the consequences of a conviction can be and that you need the help of a seasoned defense team. Our Virginia check fraud attorneys thoroughly analyze such cases and advise clients every day who are charged with these and other serious crimes.