Why You Need a Defense Attorney When You Are Charged With Passing a Bad Check in Columbus, Ohio

No one should be surprised that Ohio has a state law that makes it illegal to pass a bad check illegal. Section 2912.11 of the Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) titled “Passing bad checks,” covers a lot more than simply writing, attempting to deposit, or pay with a bad paper check.

The rapid escalation of the alleged offense to a felony charge may also shock some people. A conviction for engaging in check fraud valued at $1,000 or more can lead to a person facing serious jail time and having a felony on their record.

A big challenge for police and prosecutors who wish to pursue a case for passing a bad check is proving that the defendant intended to commit theft or fraud. Partnering with a Columbus check fraud lawyer can help a person who is accused of this offense with a solid defense or negotiate a plea to an activity that carries less severe penalties.

How Ohio Defines the Alleged Offense of Passing a Bad Check

O.R.C. 2913.11 states, “No person, with purpose to defraud, shall issue or transfer or cause to be issued or transferred a check or other negotiable instrument, knowing that it will be dishonored or knowing that a person has ordered or will order stop payment on the check or other negotiable instrument.” Basically, the alleged criminal act is trying to get another person or a business to accept a check when you know one of the following things:

  • You lack sufficient funds in your checking account to cover the amount written,
  • You have no checking account, or
  • The check has already been returned or declined due to insufficient funds or some other reason that ensures it will not clear.

Of course, few individuals actually use paper checks today. The law acknowledges this by also making it a criminal offense to knowingly attempt to make debit card payments, money order payments, electronic fund transfers and automatic payment systems when funds do not exist to cover the transactions.

Last, while O.R.C. 2913.11 is not a forgery or counterfeiting statute, the statute does make it a crime to open a checking account or conduct financial transactions while using false identification or while providing a fake mailing address.

Possible Criminal Penalties for Passing a Bad Check in Ohio

As noted above, any check fraud involving an amount of $1,000 or more is prosecuted as a felony offense. Jail sentences and criminal fines increase with the amount of the fraud.

As spelled out in the state code, potential penalties for being convicted of or pleading guilty to passing a bad check are as follows.



Maximum Jail Sentence

Maximum Fine

Up to $1,000

Misdemeanor of the first degree

180 days



Felony of the fifth degree

12 months



Felony of the fourth degree

18 months


More than $150,000

Felony of the third degree

36 months



For sentencing purposes, a judge can consider the amount of a single bad check or the total of several bad checks together.

Making a Math Error Is Not a Crime

Bouncing a check is not the same thing as committing check fraud. First, the crime requires intent. The reason the words “knowing” and “knowingly” appear so often in the explanation of the alleged offense of passing a bad check is that knowing the check is bad is the crime.

Additionally, O.R.C. 2913.11 disallows prosecutions over checks that fail to clear when they are deposited more than 30 days after they are written. You cannot go to jail if someone holds your check until you no longer have money in your account to cover it.

Lastly, you may sincerely believe you have the money. Who hasn’t miscalculated their balance while paying a stack of bills? Not everyone confirms the availability of funds with their bank before making each purchase. Mistakes happen, and mistakes are not crimes.

Sharing your story with a Columbus check fraud lawyer will allow them to collect the evidence and testimony you need to substantiate your argument for having the charges dismissed. If securing a dismissal or acquittal is not possible, the Columbus criminal defense attorney can argue for a reduced charge and lesser penalties.

Colin Maher of The Maher Law Firm is an experienced check fraud attorney who practices in and around Columbus, Ohio. He offers free phone consultations to all potential clients and charges flat fees on most cases. You can contact him online or call Colin at (614) 205-2208 for a free phone consultation.

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