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Corner of 9th Street North & Gandy Blvd.
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St. Petersburg, FL 33702
St. Petersburg / Clearwater Attorneys Who Can Help with a Bad Check Prosecution
Florida Statutes Chapter 832 prohibits the writing of bad checks, drafts, and debit card orders, or stopping payment on a check, draft, or written order with intent to defraud. If you have been charged with this offense in Pinellas County, it is important that you be aware of three important aspects of the law:
In order to refer a Pinellas County Worthless Check case to the State Attorney’s Office, a business or individual must mail all of the following information to the Sixth Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney’s Office located in Clearwater, New Port Richey or Dade City:
It is the policy of the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office to investigate the check writer’s criminal history to determine if he is eligible for the Bad Check Diversion Program. The Bad Check Diversion Program is a pre-information diversion program that handles almost all worthless check cases with the exception of forged checks, stolen checks or checks marked stopped payment. The program is designed to avoid formal prosecution by seeking immediate restitution and the payment of service fees to the business or individual who received the dishonored check. To determine eligibility into the diversion program, the State Attorney examines the facts of each case and the check writer’s background including:
If the check writer qualifies for the program, the State Attorney sends the defendant a Notice to Appear at their Clearwater office location for an informal hearing. At the hearing, the State Attorney enters into a written agreement with the check writer who agrees to complete the following requirements:
If the check writer fails to fulfill these conditions, the State Attorney can then proceed to criminally prosecute the defendant. However, if these stipulations are met, the case will be closed and no further action will be taken. Learn more about the Bad Check Diversion Program.
Many clients tell us they were never contacted by the Bad Check Diversion or Restitution Program. This could be the case because:
Regardless of the reason, if you have an outstanding warrant, been arrested or received notice of an upcoming court date for a worthless check or check kiting charge, then a formal prosecution has already commenced. As a result, you are no longer eligible to participate in the Bad Check Diversion Program. However, there may be other options available to you designed to avoid incarceration and to avoid formal conviction.
Stopping payment on a check given in exchange for goods or services valued at less than $150.00 is a second degree misdemeanor, which involves maximum penalties of 60 days imprisonment and a $500 fine.
Furthermore, providing a check for services or goods worth less than $150.00, knowing that there are insufficient funds available, is a misdemeanor of the first degree. 1st degree misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
If you are being prosecuted for passing a worthless check in the St. Petersburg / Clearwater area, you or your lawyer will be required to appear in court. If you fail to hire an attorney, or subsequently fail to appear in court:
Both felony and misdemeanor worthless check offenses are categorized in the criminal justice system as crimes of dishonesty or untruthfulness. As a result, if you are formally convicted of a worthless check offense, your credibility will forever be at issue.
In applying for future employment, many occupations demand that you divulge any prior felonies or crimes involving untruthfulness or dishonesty. This would include worthless check convictions. This same standard applies as a prerequisite when applying for a professional license. Careers in law enforcement, accounting, teaching, real estate, medicine, banking & finance or law typically require you to reveal such convictions and your worthless check case could serve as the sole basis for denying you licensure.
Aside from future career opportunities, any future statements that you provide in a court of law can be impeached because of your worthless check conviction, regardless of whether you are a plaintiff, witness or defendant. For example, if you become the victim of an auto accident and you are required to appear in civil court to seek a recovery, the lawyer representing the other driver is permitted to ask you the following question in an effort to discredit your testimony: “Isn’t it true that you have been convicted of a felony or a crime of untruthfulness or dishonesty?”
Our office can help you explore possible defenses to the charge and the potential methods to avoid formal conviction.
Several defenses may be available to combat a worthless check criminal charge. You can not be prosecuted for writing a bad check if:
An experienced St. Petersburg / Clearwater attorney can consider the facts of your case and determine whether your situation qualifies for one of the above mentioned defenses.
In order to seek prosecution for a worthless check offense, businesses and citizens must follow a precise procedure. The business or individual must have evidence to establish the identity of the check writer at the time the check was accepted. This can be verified by:
The check writer’s driver’s license number, or the following information listed on the check or a check-cashing identification card:
Once the bank denies payment of the check, the business or individual must make an effort to notify the check writer that his check was dishonored. This notice must be sent by certified mail with a return receipt or by U.S. Mail with an affidavit of service of mail.
After sending the notice, the check writer is afforded a grace period of fifteen days to avoid prosecution by immediately paying restitution along with a statutory “service charge.” The mandatory service charge amount is calculated as follows:
If the check writer does not pay the restitution and fees within the fifteen days, the victim is then entitled to refer the case to the State Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution.
Any individual or retail establishment that resides or does business in the St. Petersburg / Clearwater area must submit a worthless check complaint at least six months before the statute of limitations expires. For checks exchanged for goods or services less than $150.00, the business or individual has two years from the check’s date to file a complaint. If the goods or services were valued at $150.00 or more, there is a three year statute of limitations from the date that appears on the check. If the check was provided for rent or payment on an account at any value, the statute of limitations is two years from the check’s date.
Call our office for a free consultation. If you are out of state, or reside outside of the St. Petersburg / Clearwater area, we can handle your case through a “phone-in” consultation. We can discuss with you several strategies that may include:
We are St. Petersburg / Clearwater criminal defense lawyers experienced in helping persons charged with Worthless Check offenses. You are invited to meet with us so that we can discuss the individual facts and circumstances of your case. Together, we can adopt a strategy that is best focused on achieving the most desirable outcome.