In California, if you write a check, but do not have the money in your checking account to back it up, the check will bounce. When you have non-sufficient funds, it can hurt your wallet, not to mention damage your credit score. Unfortunately, this is not the end of the line. You can face criminal charges.
If you do not mean for a check to bounce, you will want to ensure that you have the funds in your account or that you can switch funds over to your account as soon as possible. According to the State of California Department of Justice, it is a crime when you know that you have insufficient funds.
While intentional fraud is an automatic crime, if you did not intend to commit fraud, there may be a difference in how you are treated. However, if you write several bad checks in a short amount of time, it will appear more like fraud. California Penal Code states that circumstances and criminal history affect forgery charges. If charged with felony check fraud, you may face a maximum of $10,000 in fines. Additionally, you may have to spend three years in prison. If you face a misdemeanor charge instead, then you may face a penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 penalty.
If someone files charges, they do not have to prove that you intended to defraud them. Instead, it is up to you to prove that it was not your intent.
The information here has one purpose to explain check fraud. By no means is it legal advice.