Check fraud is generally defined as when a person attempts to or actually makes a purchase with a fake check. But in California, there is a specific definition and penalties for check fraud. 

What’s the Definition of Check Fraud in California?

In California, check fraud occurs when an individual passes, makes, possess, uses, or attempts to use an altered or false check with the intent to defraud the person/entity.

How Does Check Fraud Occur?

It happens when an individual either endorses or signs a check using another person’s name without permission. A real check can also become counterfeit by:

  • Changing the dollar amount
  • Changing the date on the check
  • Signing a fictitious name
  • Signing an authorized name
  • Altering the bank’s routing number 

What Does the State Have to Prove to Convict Me of California Check Fraud?

The state has two prove: 

  • The defendant had possession of the check for payment.
  • The defendant knew the check was altered or false
  • The defendant intended to defraud another person or entity by making, passing, using or attempting to use the check(s)
  • The defendant possessed the document with the intend to use or pass the document as real

What Does “Intent to Defraud” Mean?

It means the defendant intended to deceive someone to obtain something of value like money or property by means of deception. 

What are the Penalties for Check Fraud in California?

The penalties depend on whether the defendant was charged with misdemeanor or felony check fraud. In California, check fraud is considered a “wobbler”, so a defendant can be charged with either a felon you a misdemeanor. The prosecutor will look to the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history in order to decide whether to charge the crime as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor check fraud is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. While a felony check fraud conviction is punishable by probation and up to 1 year in jail, or 16 months to 3 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

What are the Defenses I Can Use to Fight Check Fraud Charge?

Defenses for check fraud varies according to the facts of the case. Some common defenses are:

  • The defendant had no intent to commit fraud
  • The defendant had permission to make the alteration by the owner of the check
  • The defendant is a victim of mistaken identity

Should I Consult a Lawyer For Help?

Yes. It’s important to hire a California criminal lawyer to help you fight this charge.