What Happens When you Bounce a Check in California

What Happens When you Bounce a Check in California

We all make mistakes. One of the mistakes that many of us have made at one time or another is not checking our account before writing a check. As a result, the check bounces and you face a series of problems.

The good news is that in most cases, the consequences of writing a bad check aren’t horrible. The person/business you wrote the check to contact you. You’re embarrassed but cover the amount of the check plus whatever fee the business attaches to the returned check. There’s also a chance that your bank will charge you an overdraft fee. Once you’ve covered all of these costs, you can stop worrying about the matter and get on with your life.

In some extreme cases, the legal system gets involved.

Check fraud is covered by California’s Penal Code 476 PC. According to the law, you can be charged with check fraud whenever you do something with a check that leads the person who is receiving the check that they believe is good.

You can be charged with check fraud if you:

  • Write a check even when you know there aren’t sufficient funds in your account
  • Create checks for an account that doesn’t exist
  • Alter the routing or account number on a check
  • Writing checks for an account you don’t own
  • Altering the amount written on a check


Check fraud is another one of California’s wobbler laws. If the amount of check fraud doesn’t exceed $950, you’ll only face misdemeanor charges. A conviction can result in a sentence that could include:

  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • A maximum of one year in county jail
  • Restitution


If the amount of the check fraud exceeds $950, you can be charged with a felony. The consequences of felony check fraud in California can include:

  • One year in county jail
  • Probation
  • Restitution
  • As much as $10,000 in fines

It’s important to understand that to be found guilty of check fraud in California, the prosecutor has to prove that you knew you were writing a fraudulent check. This is why most businesses don’t file charges for a small check. It’s easy to not realize you were $5 or $10 short when you wrote the check.

If you accidentally bounce a check, the best way to handle the situation is by apologizing and working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.