A person who writes a bad check can face serious penalties in Texas. State law refers to this act as “theft by check.” The criminal charge requires the intent to defraud another person or entity, usually a business.
Proving theft by check
To find a person guilty of theft by check, the prosecution must prove several elements. First, the accused person must have paid with a check and there must have been insufficient funds to pay for the item, meaning the person did not have enough money in their account for the bank to honor the check.
The accused person must have also known or had a reasonable belief that they did not have enough to pay for the item with the check.
Penalties and potential defenses available
The penalties for theft by check in Texas range from a misdemeanor for checks written for less than $2,500 and a felony for checks written for more than $2,500.
Specifically, if the check was for less than $100, the accused person may face a fine. If it is between $100 and $2,500, it can carry a fine and jail time up to a year. For checks that are more than $2,500 it can carry a prison sentence and several thousands of dollars in fines. If the person is convicted, they may also have to pay restitution to the person or business.
The defenses can vary depending on the specific situation. If the accused person can prove that the check was written by mistake or a misunderstanding, that may be used as a defense. That would demonstrate a lack of intent to defraud.
Also, if the accused person relied on incorrect bank records or financial statements that showed they had sufficient funds for the check, that may also be a defense. Sometimes, the accused person can resolve the matter by paying the amount owed to the person or business as well.