I received a bad check, what can I do to get my money back?
A bounced check is not always a bad check violation. Your situation must meet two conditions to charge someone with a bad check violation (a criminal charge):
- An immediate exchange of goods or services. Bad checks for payments for rent, utilities, or car payments are not covered under the statute. Check with the District Court Commissioner to see if criminal charges can be initiated. If not, you can bring a civil case against the person.
- A bank or institution must have refused to pay upon the check for insufficient funds, or where an account does not exist, is closed, or has a hold on it.
When can you file charges?
- If the bank refused the check because the account does not exist, is closed, or has a hold on it, you can file an application for charges immediately. You must appear in person at the commissioner’s station to do this because the commissioner will take a sworn statement from you that the information you provide is true.
- Otherwise, you must wait ten (10) days from the date of the refusal to bring charges. This gives the individual time to pay the money they owe you.
If you agree to hold a check for a period of time, then you are, in effect, extending credit to the person. If the check is then refused for payment, you can’t charge the person with a bad check violation because the exchange was not immediate. To recover the money owed to you, you must sue the person in civil court for breach of contract. See Small Claims.
How do I file charges?
Complete an Application for Statement of Charges for Bad Check (DC-CR 044). You must appear in person at the commissioner’s station to do this because the commissioner will take a sworn statement from you that the information you provide is true.
Bring a photocopy of the bad check, information about the check, a description of the goods or services the person received, and any information you have about the person who wrote the check (for example, the person’s driver’s license number, date of birth and a physical description). The commissioner cannot provide you with identifying information.
There are no court costs or fees for filing an Application for Charges.
Attend the trial, which will be held in the District Court. You are required to personally attend the trial to testify about the facts of the case.
Please bring with you any identifying information about the defendant that you may have. The defendant’s driver’s license number, date of birth, and a physical description should be recorded on the application.
"Issuing" versus "Passing"
Check "Issuing" on the Application for Statement of Charges for Bad Check (form DC-CR-044) if the Defendant gave you a check from the Defendant's own account. The act of a check-writer who (1) delivers the check to a person who acquires a right against the writer' or (2) writes the check intending that it be delivered to a person who would acquire a right to the check-writer and the check is delivered to that person.
Check "Passing" on the Application for Statement of Charges for Bad Check (form DC-CR-044) if the Defendant gave you a third-party check signed over to you. Delivering the check by a payee, holder, or bearer of the check, if: (1) the check was, or purports to have been written by a person other that the person delivering the check; and (2) delivery was made to a third person who acquires a right to the check.
The person who wrote the bad check may choose to pay you the amount he or she owes before trial. If restitution is made to you and you do not wish to proceed with criminal charges, you should notify the state’s attorney’s office and provide the case number, defendant’s name and address, and the date you filed the application for charges.
You should accept payment for the bad check in cash, certified check, or a money order, and give the debtor a receipt. If you accept another check as payment on a bad check, it does not qualify as a bad check violation if it bounces.
Tips to avoid accepting a bad check:
Before accepting a check for payment:
- Ask for a driver’s license as identification.
- Make sure the name and address on the check match the identification.
- Make sure the check contains a check number on the top and preprinted Optical Character Reader numbers on the bottom.
- Write the driver’s license number and birth date on the check.
- If the check is for a substantial amount, you may wish to call the bank and ask for verification that there are sufficient funds in the account to cover the amount of the check.