Check Fraud Law in Washington State

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 What Is Check Fraud?

Check fraud occurs when an individual makes or attempts to make a purchase, finances a transaction, or obtains bank funds using a counterfeit check. There are several different types of check fraud, including:

  • Check kiting;
  • Forgery;
  • Paperhanging;
  • Altering checks.

Check fraud is a criminal offense that involves the deceptive or illegal use of checks. In the majority of situations, check fraud involves an individual attempting a transaction or making a purchase using a check that has been altered, stolen, faked, or is otherwise not valid.

However, check fraud may be accomplished in numerous different ways and may occur in many different contexts and situations, not just with purchases. Depending on the circumstances of the situation, as well as the laws of the state, check fraud may be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony crime.

Check fraud is an offense that evolves over time as newer banking technologies and methods are used.

Are There Different Types of Check Fraud?

As noted above, checks may be falsified in many different ways, including check alteration, forgery, counterfeiting, and other methods. Check fraud may also involve different ways of using checks that are not legal, including:

  • Payroll fraud: This involves taking another individual’s paycheck or benefits or issuing themselves a paycheck they have not earned, or that is not authorized;
  • Paperhanging: This involves using a closed or inoperable bank account to write a check when making a purchase or transaction; and
  • Check kiting: This involves defrauding a bank by using several checking accounts to write checks for an amount greater than the remaining balance in the checking account;
    • The perpetrator then transfers money between the checking accounts while the checks are being processed.

Some of these forms of check fraud may be considered very severe crimes that are handled in federal court. This is especially true in cases of check fraud crimes that involve systematic abuses of identity theft, bank accounts, or multiple victims. There are certain check fraud crimes that involve many different individuals and may be perpetrated over a period of many months or years.

What Are Fake Checks?

Fake checks may involve numerous different aspects that have been falsified or changed. A check may be faked or made fraudulent through different methods, including:

  • Illegally reprinting or reproducing a check using computer technology or scanning technology called counterfeiting;
  • Altering or faking a signature on a check called forgery;
  • Changing the information on a check, such as the banking account number or routing number called check alteration;
  • Various other methods.

There are also other types of fraud schemes that may be classified as check fraud. For example, if an individual issues a check to themselves without the permission or consent from the other party, it may be considered a form of fraud, even if the check itself is valid and real.

The common issue in these cases is that some type of deceit is used to manipulate the situation.

How Is Check Fraud Defined in Washington State?

In Washington State, check fraud is defined as the intent to defraud or issue a check knowing that there are not sufficient funds or credit to cover the amount of the check.

Are There Different Types of Crimes Considered Check Fraud in the State?

Yes, there are different types of crimes that are considered check fraud in Washington State. For example, the charge of unlawful issuance of a bank check makes it illegal to intentionally issue a check and stops payment on the check without arranging alternate payment within 20 days.

In addition, it is illegal to issue a blank check if the writer of the check is aware that there are insufficient funds to cover the check when it was issued.

Does the Dollar Amount of the Check Make a Difference in What I’m Charged With?

Yes, the amount of the check makes a difference in what an individual will be charged with. For example, unlawful issuance of a bank check may be classified as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the amount of the check.

If the check was less than $750, it would be a misdemeanor offense. If the check was more than $750, it would be classified as a Class C felony offense.

Can You Go to Jail For Depositing a Fake Check?

Whether or not an individual can go to jail for depositing a fake check will depend on the circumstances of the case. If an individual knowingly deposits a fake check with the intent to obtain funds that are not theirs or to deceive a bank employee, they will typically be subject to criminal consequences, which may include jail time or criminal fines.

The severity of the punishment an individual may face will typically depend on the amount of money that is involved in the fraudulent conduct. The more money that is involved, the more severe the consequences will be.

What Is the Punishment for Check Fraud in Washington State?

In Washington State, the punishment for the unlawful issuance of a bank check for more than $750 is up to 5 years in prison and criminal fines of up to $10,000. If the check amount was less than $750, a defendant would face up to but less than 1 year in jail and criminal fines of $5,000.

If a defendant wrote multiple bad checks that exceeded $750, it would be charged as a Class C felony which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and criminal fines of up to $10,000.

What Can I Do if I Think I Have Been the Victim of Check Fraud?

If an individual believes that they have been a victim of check fraud, they should alert local law enforcement authorities. They should tell them what occurred, how much money was lost, and the possible way in which the check fraud occurred.

An individual should also alert their financial institution or bank. The financial institution may be able to investigate the matter as well.

The bank can close the individual’s accounts so that no further theft or damages can be done to their financial assets. An individual should also consider consulting an attorney for assistance with their legal questions or concerns.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Accused of Check Fraud?

Check fraud is a serious criminal offense. If an individual has been accused of check fraud, they should attempt to collect various items that may help prove their innocence, including:

  • Things that prove the individual has access to or is authorized to use checks, such as an employee ID or other similar type of document;
  • Statements from witnesses or other individuals who can verify the defendant’s actions;
  • Receipts and other proof of valid transactions.

If an individual has been accused of check fraud, they should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.

What Are the Legal Defenses for Check Fraud?

As with any type of criminal offense, there may be various defenses available against check fraud charges. One common defense is coercion.

Coercion occurs when an individual is forced, under threat of harm, to commit check fraud. For example, if they were held at gunpoint and forced to forget the check.

There are also other defenses that may apply, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction. Because of this, it is important to consult with a local criminal defense attorney.

Can a Fraud Lawyer Help Me With My Check Fraud Charge?

As noted above, if you have been charged with check fraud, it is a very serious offense. You should consult with a Washington fraud lawyer who can advise you of any available defenses and assist you with fighting your check fraud charges. Your attorney can inform you of your legal rights and options.


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