Mississippi Crime of the Week – Bad Checks

There ain’t no good in an evil-hearted woman
And I ain’t cut out to be no Jesse James
And you don’t go writing hot checks, down in Mississippi
And there ain’t no good chain gang
     -Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings

It is against the law in Mississippi to “make, draw, utter, or deliver” any “check, draft, or order” to obtain “money, delivery of other valuable property, services, the use of property, or credit” when you know that you don’t have funds in the bank or financial institution to cover it.  Miss. Code Ann. § 97-19-55.  It is also against the law to close your account without leaving enough money in it to cover the checks you have outstanding.  Each bad check that you write is a separate violation of the law.

 

What is the punishment for bad checks?  Depends on how much.

If the amount on the check is less than $100.00:

  • First Offense – Misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine of between $25.00 – $500.00, imprisonment of between 5 days – 6 months, or both.
  • Second Offense – still misdemeanor, but fine goes to $50.00 – $1000.00, imprisonment of between 30 days – 1 year, or both.
  • Third Offense – amount doesn’t matter, felony offense.  Imprisonment between 1 – 5 years.

If the amount on the check is $100.00 or more:

  • Felony offense – fine of $100.00 – $1000.00, imprisonment of up to 3 years, or both.

Restitution to the “victim” is almost always the case, along with costs of court and penalties.

 

What about post-dated checks?

It is the opinion of the Mississippi Attorney General that a future obligation as to payment of a check is not contemplated by § 97-19-55; therefore, a person who post-dates a check may not be prosecuted under § 97-19-55. Op.Atty.Gen. No. 99-0028, Hudson, Feb. 5, 1999.

 

What is going to happen to me if I write some bad checks?

Most district attorney’s offices in Mississippi have a “Bad Check Unit,” which assists merchants and anyone who receives a bad check to collect on it.  MOST of the time, if you get a notice from the bad check unit, and you act promptly to make restitution, nothing terrible will happen to you.  IF you do not respond to the notice, you can be arrested, and, depending on the severity of the offense, your case can be sent to the grand jury just like any other crime.  Start looking for a lawyer at that point, if not before.

As always, there are many ways to work out a criminal case.  Some bad check cases are totally defensible, so if you believe you have an issue run it by a criminal defense lawyer before it is too late.  Give us a call at 601-991-1099.  We are here to help.