Arizona Check Fraud Defense Attorney
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Phoenix Check Fraud Defense Attorney
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There are many ways for an individual to commit check fraud. This is especially true as new banking technologies and methods continue to emerge. In response, the crime of check fraud continues to evolve and encompass more and more variants. If you have accusations or charges of check fraud against you, it’s imperative that you learn your legal options and begin building a defense strategy as quickly as possible. Call the experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyers at Belén Law Firm today to get started.
What is Check Fraud?
Check fraud is a crime involving the illegal or deceptive use of checks. It is the attempt to deprive another person or entity of money by using deceptive or unfair means. This may be done through the use of forged, counterfeit, or misleading checks to:
- Make a purchase;
- Finance a transaction;
- Initiate a money transfer; or
- Obtain account funds from a banking institution.
Oftentimes, check fraud occurs when an account holder writes a check knowing that they don’t have enough money in their bank account to cover the check. This is a serious crime that can result in a permanent criminal record. A check fraud charge can be especially distressing for someone who has never had a criminal record or has only had minor criminal offenses on their record.
What are Fake Checks?
Fake or counterfeit checks are fraudulent checks created with the intention of stealing money from another individual or entity. These fake checks can include personal checks, business checks, cashier checks, and money orders. In some cases, all of the information provided on the check is false. In others, scammers use a genuine account and routing data to produce counterfeit checks.
In today’s times, it may be easy to assume that check fraud is no longer a serious problem, as the majority of the population has turned to debit cards, money transfer applications, and other electronic payment methods. However, this is not the case. Individuals, businesses, and financial institutions alike are still frequently losing money as a result of fraudulent checks. In fact, millions of counterfeit checks totaling upwards of billions of dollars are issued each year. This leaves nearly half a million Americans who are scammed by fake or counterfeit checks, according to the Better Business Bureau, each losing an average of $1,200 per year.
Can You Go To Jail For Depositing a Fake Check?
Yes, you can go to jail for depositing a fake check. This is because it’s illegal to deposit a fraudulent check to obtain money that is not yours, according to federal statutes. What’s more, in addition to recourse at the state and civil level, check fraud may also be prosecuted as a federal crime. As a result, you face potentially lengthy prison or jail time, hefty fines, probation, and a range of other penalties.
However, the severity of a check fraud penalty is typically determined by the amount of money acquired unlawfully as well as the jurisdiction the case falls under. Misdemeanor check fraud charges generally result in only a fine, but felony check fraud charges can result in serious prison time.
Should you have prior fraud convictions, a generally non-felonious charge may likely be escalated to a felony fraud charge. In addition, if other offenses like violence are involved in the check fraud, a misdemeanor can also increase to a felony.
Are There Different Types of Check Fraud?
There are a number of ways in which check fraud may occur. For example, counterfeit checks may be printed and deposited into a person’s own bank account. Another example may be an employee stealing their employers’ bank account information, writing checks to a fictitious vendor, and obtaining the money for themselves. Another common tactic is to persuade victims to accept a fraudulent check in exchange for cash.
Below are the names of the many different methods of check fraud:
- Signing a check without authorization. It could also mean endorsing a check not payable to the endorser.
- Using chemicals to strip information from a check.
- Printing checks illegally by using the victim’s account information.
- Check kiting
- Gaining access to the funds deposited into an account before the bank collects them from another.
- Stealing someone’s checks with the intent to use them for fraudulent purposes.
- Writing checks from accounts that are closed or ordering checks and writing them on closed accounts.
Regardless of the specific method of fraud, the conclusion is generally the same: one person illegally obtains money while leaving the victim, whether an individual or entity, at a financial loss.
What are the Penalties for Committing Check Fraud?
Depending on the exact circumstances surrounding the fraud, such as the amount of money in question and the defendant’s historical priors, check fraud may be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony crime. A fraudulent check written for less than $5,000, for example, would be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona. This can result in up to 6 months in jail, a fine of $2,500, community restitution, and probation. (See Standard Probation with White Collar Terms.)
For check fraud that exceeds the amount of $5,000 (and if the defendant fails to repay the full amount within a 60-day period), he or she will likely receive a Class 6 felony charge. In Arizona, this level of felony may result in anywhere from 4 months to 2 years imprisonment. Any record of previous check fraud offenses may drastically increase these penalties.
What are the Legal Defenses for Check Fraud?
According to the regulations found in ARS §§ 13-1807 through 13-1811, check fraud in Arizona is only deemed a criminal violation if the defendant was aware of their deceit. So, for example, if you were to unknowingly write a check for an amount exceeding the balance in your account, you have accidentally committed check fraud by doing so. In such situations, the bank will demand the money owed on top of an additional fee for writing a check above the available balance. However, no additional consequences should ensue as long as the payment is made on time.
Remember – in order for check fraud to lead to criminal proceedings in Arizona, an individual must be aware of their issuing a fraudulent check. As a result, if your attorney can prove that you did not intend to defraud a person, business, or financial institution, you may have a viable defense and avoid obtaining a conviction.
Another example may be in cases where the person who happens to be the real victim of the crime, meaning they cashed a check that was given to them without knowing it was fraudulent, ends up getting charged with the crime’s conduct. If you can prove that you were not the guilty party because you weren’t the one who produced the counterfeit check and were unaware that it was fake, this is a valid defense.
Further, proving coercion or duress may also be a legal defense for check fraud. This means that you committed check fraud only because you were forced or threatened into it. However, while using a coercion or duress defense may help you avoid a conviction, it can be very difficult to prove and will likely require the experience of a skilled Arizona white-collar crime defense attorney.
Other Possible Check Fraud Defenses
- You wrote the check under the influence of alcohol.
- You formally notified the bank of inadequate money and pledged to repay, resulting in a temporary credit extension.
- The bank made certain changes to your account without telling you, which resulted in a shortage of money.
- You and the check’s receiver have had previous successful financial interactions.
- You promptly paid the whole amount due, plus interest, after receiving notification of the bounced check from the bank.
- The receiver was properly advised that there were insufficient funds in the account before the check was drawn.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Accused of Check Fraud?
Whether you’ve already received check fraud charges or you’ve merely been accused of committing check fraud, it’s crucial that you obtain legal representation as quickly as possible. In the meantime, do not say anything to anyone unless your attorney instructs you to do so. It is true what they say: every word can and will be used against you.
Hiring an attorney right off the bat also ensures that every element of your case is carefully and properly investigated while the allegations against you are aggressively contested throughout the process. Innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit every single day, and an experienced criminal defense attorney may be the only way to navigate these very serious charges and defend your interests in court.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Check Fraud?
Check fraud charges are often severe, and convictions can be lifelong. This is why you need an attorney who understands how fraud is prosecuted, where to look for mistakes in the case, and how to successfully argue on your behalf to avoid a conviction and protect your future.
Belén Olmedo Guerra understands the impact that fraud accusations may have on your life. She also has years of experience guiding clients through these difficult legal situations. Therefore, she knows how to handle your legal needs in a considerate yet effective way.
Call Top Phoenix White Collar Crime Defense Lawyer Belén Today
It is important that you contact the knowledgeable Phoenix criminal defense attorneys at Belén Law Firm as soon as possible following potential check fraud charges. You can reach us at 602-715-0908 or by filling out our online intake form below.