California P.C. 478(a): Writing Bad Check

Knowingly passing an insufficient check is a crime punishable as a felony or misdemeanor. However, if the check was under the amount of $950 then the crime is punishable as a misdemeanor. Passing an insufficient or bad check is governed under California P.C. 478(a) which provides that one knowingly wrote a bad check with the specific intent to defraud. Writing a bad check is considered a “theft” crime affecting one’s ability to obtain state licensing or adversely affect someone attempting to obtain citizenship. Prosecuting someone for writing or passing a bad check is more challenging that one would think because the prosecutor must prove “knowledge” and “intent to defraud” whereas most of the time, writing a bad check was merely an accident.

Contact Attorney John Rogers Immediately

Los Angeles Criminal Defense & Check Fraud Lawyer John Rogers is committed to providing each client aggressively, affordable, and trusted legal representation. Whether you’re charged with a minor offense or a serious felony, Mr. Rogers makes himself available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and works tirelessly to achieve the best possible result for each client. The best approach to defeating check fraud charges is early criminal defense attorney intervention, contact Mr. Rogers immediately.

Elements to Writing a Bad Check

In order for someone to be found guilty of writing a bad check under P.C. 478(a), the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Defendant wrote a check or passed a check with insufficient funds
  2. Defendant had knowledge of the insufficient funds
  3. Defendant had the intent to defraud the recipient

What is the Punishment for Writing a Bad Check?

Writing a bad check is a “wobbler” offenses which means the prosecutor has discretion to charge someone under this statute with a felony or misdemeanor. Charging someone with writing a bad check as a felony depends on a number of circumstances. If convicted of a misdemeanor, one faces up to one year in the county jail and a fine up to $1,000. If one is convicted under this statute as a felony, they face a sentencing range of 16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison. In the event one is convicted of writing or passing a bad check and they successfully complete their probationary period with no violations, they may be eligible to have their felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor pursuant to P.C. 17(b).

What are the Legal Defenses to Writing a Bad Check?

There are numerous defenses available to someone accused of writing or passing a bad check. In particular, if one did not know there were insufficient funds available at the time of passing the check, one cannot be guilty of writing a bad check. Additionally, most of the time one accidently passes an insufficient check, thereby negating the “specific intent to defraud” element required under this statute. A majority of the time, a skilled criminal defense attorney can defeat this charge by producing evidence that you reasonably believed the check was genuine having sufficient funds. If one has a “reasonable belief,” then they are not acting willfully with the intent to defraud. Furthermore, you could have reasonably believed your account was equipped with overdraft protection or perhaps the bank made a clerical error causing the check to bounce.


Bob walked into a sporting goods store to purchase camping equipment for his upcoming trip. Bob forgot his wallet but had his check book. When time came to pay for the items, Bob wrote a check knowing that his account had closed one month prior. The store accepted the check. Days later, the check bounced. Since Bob wrote a check, knowing it wasn’t valid, intending to defraud the store that there were sufficient funds, Bob would be guilty of writing and or passing a bad check.

Writing a Bad Check Expungement

In California, a check fraud conviction is eligible to be expunged so long as certain requirements have been fulfilled. Expunging your record is governed under California P.C. 1203.4 where your finding of guilt is set aside the conviction is dismissed. Contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense & Check Fraud Attorney John Rogers for more information regarding your eligibility and process to expunge your criminal record.

Free Los Angeles Check Fraud Attorney Consultation

If you or a loved one has been arrested, charged, or is under investigation for writing a bad check, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense & Check Fraud Attorney John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers located at 1801 Century Park East, 24th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Call 877-888-9820 now for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.