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Can you be prosecuted for a returned check if you did not authorize the person to make it out for the amount that he did?

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Wiki User
August 13, 2010 11:57AM

Your question refers to an instance when you write a check and include all information except the amount. When you leave the amount blank, you risk an overdraft on your account if the payee or your agent writes an amount that is greater than your account balance at the time of processing.

However, despite the potential loss to the bank or to the payee, you cannot be prosecuted for the crime of "writing a bad check" because there is no crime, here. Two necessary elements are the intent to defraud and the knowledge that there are insufficient funds in the account to cover the check. Simply go to the related link and read, on the opening page, the general description of the usual elements of a criminal bad-check law:

4. The intent to defraud and knowledge of insufficient funds [are] required . . . by most states' bad check laws. The intent to defraud is sufficient. It is not necessary for the payee to have actually been defrauded.

It is very important to understand that there is no criminal liability for simply bouncing a check. Without the intent to defraud, there is no criminal act. You had merely created the possibility that the check could be written for more than the amount in the account and certainly had no intention to defraud anyone.

However, you can be held liable in a civil suit, even if the written amount was not authorized, since you have created the possibility that this could happen. The person who wrote the larger amount would be primarily liable for any loss, and you, as the maker of the check, would be secondarily liable.

In your situation, leaving the amount blank would be deemed a civilly negligent act, rather than a criminal act; you cannot be prosecuted for a returned check.