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Check Fraud

The law uses the term “check fraud” to describe several deceptive practices. The most common type of check fraud is writing non-sufficient funds, or NSF, checks. NSF checks are checks written on bank accounts that do not have enough money to cover the amount of the check. When the payee deposits or cashes the check, the bank will not honor it.

Paperhanging, which is similar to NSF check writing, occurs when a person writes a check on a closed bank account. The check could be his or stolen from someone. Although the check is not altered, the information is not valid.


Check floating, or kiting, is another type of check fraud. The person has two bank accounts and writes a check. During the processing time, also called the float time, he transfers funds back and forth between the two checking accounts in order to create the illusion of a sufficient or positive balance.

Physically altering a check is also considered check fraud. This type of check fraud involves both stolen and legitimate checks. There are several illegal ways someone will alter a check, such as changing the amount, duplicating the check and forging a signature.

Penalties for Check Fraud in California

Under California Penal Code section 470, a person who intends to defraud an individual or company by writing a false check can be punished with fines and jail time even if the check writer makes restitution to the payee. Depending on the check writer’s prior criminal history and the amount of the check, he can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, making check fraud a “wobbler” charge. If the check is less than $200, the check fraud may be considered a misdemeanor. For a misdemeanor, the accused can be sentenced with up to one year of jail plus a fine. If the check is for a larger amount, the accused can be sentenced with a felony, which carries up to a three-year state prison sentence plus a fine.

Bail Bonds for Check Fraud Charges

When the court sets a bail amount, the accused can be released from jail until his sentencing if he, or his representative, posts real property, the total bail in cash or a bail bond. In California, the law allows the county to decide a predetermined bail amount. The state’s law also allows the accused to use a licensed bail bondsman to post his bail.

In order for a bail bond company to provide this service, they charge a premium, which is a percentage of the full bail amount set by the court. Usually, the premium is around ten percent. The bail bond company is required to charge the accused the premium rate they filed with California’s Department of Insurance. For example, a bondsman will charge the accused a $1,000 premium plus applicable feels for a bail amount of $10,000. The premium charge is not refundable. And if the accused does not appear in court, the bail bond is forfeited.

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