What do you do when you receive a check that bounces?

August 19, 2015

You bought a new bedroom set and decided to sell your old one. You placed your ad, found a buyer and closed the deal, only to find out that the payment check you were given was returned due to non-sufficient funds or a stop payment by the drawer.  Understandably, this news can be extremely frustrating to say the least—not to mention, all the costs and complications that can arise from this situation.   Relax, the law is on your side when it comes to being at the receiving end of a bad check, and there are actions you can take to recover ‘your’ money.

First, it’s a criminal offense for a person to pay you with a check that, unknown to you, has insufficient funds, or place a stop payment on it.  Each county’s State Attorney’s Office has a bad check division that you can file a complaint with by calling this division in the county where the bad check was presented. You then will file a report and present a copy of the bad check.  Next, the investigator will review the check drawer’s criminal history and make a determination as to whether the check drawer is eligible for criminal prosecution or rehabilitation by taking courses and reimbursing you the funds in the form of a cashier’s check or money order.

Keep in mind that there are a variety of reasons why the State Attorney’s Office may decide not to prosecute a bad check claim under Chapter 832, including:

  • Checks are postdated or stale
  • Checks are not completely filled out or are illegible
  • Checks are not deposited within a reasonable period of time (generally 30 days)
  • Checks have machine-stamped signatures
  • Checks only have one signature when two are required
  • You agreed to hold the check before depositing it regardless of how briefly it is held
  • The reason for dishonor is not stamped on the check by the bank or acknowledged officially by the bank in writing
  • You knew or had good reason to believe that the check writer’s funds at the bank at the time the check was given were insufficient to pay the check

Secondly, there is also a civil aspect to it.  The drawer could not only be responsible for the amount of the check, but also statutory penalties.  Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 68.065, the drawer must first be notified in writing via certified mail with return receipt of the bad check.  The notice must contain the following language:

“You are hereby notified that a check, draft, order of payment, debit card order, or electronic funds transfer numbered _______ in the face amount of $_______  issued by you on   (date)  , drawn upon   (name of bank), and payable to_____________, has been dishonored. Pursuant to Florida law, you have 30 days from receipt of this notice to tender payment in cash of the full amount of the dishonored payment instrument, plus a service charge of $25 if the face value does not exceed $50, $30 if the face value exceeds $50 but does not exceed $300, $40 if the face value exceeds $300, or 5 percent of the face amount of the dishonored instrument, whichever is greater, the total amount due being $____and_____cents. Unless this amount is paid in full within the 30-day period, the holder of the dishonored payment instrument may file a civil action against you for three times the amount of the dishonored instrument, but in no case less than $50, in addition to the payment of the dishonored instrument plus any court costs, reasonable attorney fees, and any bank fees incurred by the payee in taking the action.”

The drawer should pay you with a cashier’s check or money order.   Should the drawer fail to reimburse you, a lawsuit can be filed for the statutory penalties, including three times the face value of the check, but also attorney fees and court costs, and the drawer may face criminal prosecution. If there is a judgment in your favor, you may obtain a Writ of Garnishment in order to obtain the funds from the drawer’s paycheck or bank accounts.

An attorney may be able to help you by writing the bad check claim notice to the drawer, and also possibly represent you in the lawsuit, if necessary.