National Check Fraud Center

Fraudulent Check Information for the
State of South Carolina

THE LAW: Section 34-11-60, Code of Laws of South Carolina

Section 34-11-60 of the S.C. Code of Laws makes it unlawful to write or utter a fraudulent check. to summarize, it is unlawful for a person, with intent to defraud, to make or deliver a check for value, when (s)he knows that there are insufficient funds in the bank. Value can be money, services, credit, payment for rent, or certain other reoccurring liabilities or taxes. Credit means the securing of further advances for money, goods or services, when a check is given in whole or part payment of a then existing account.

The following checks cannot be criminally prosecuted:

  1. Those given in full or partial payment of a preexisting debt unless you can prove an intent to defraud.
  2. Those where the payee knows or has reason to know that the check is not good. This includes post-dated checks and situations where the payee is instructed to hold the check to a later date.
  3. Those checks not deposited into an account of the payee within 10 days after their receipt.
  4. Two party checks unless an intent to defraud can be proven.
  5. Checks more than 180 days old.

ESTABLISHING A PRIMA FACIE CASE:

Sections 34-11-60 & 70 of the S.C. Code of Laws set forth what evidence is needed to establish a prima facie case (such as will suffice until contradicted and overcome by other evidence), as well as create a presumption that the prosecution was instituted for reasonable and probable cause. When this is done, the person instituting prosecution is immune from civil liability for the giving of the notice.

The following requirements must be met in order to establish a prima facie case:

  1. The defendant gets something of value at the time the check is presented unless an intent to defraud can otherwise be proven.
  2. The defendant signs the check in the presence of the payee or its designated employee, and the receiver immediately initials the check.
  3. The check bears the full name, residence address and home number or a check identification card number is recorded on the check. Although not required by statute, it is recommended that you confirm this information verbally by having the person present a picture I.D. Look at the picture on the I.D. and the person presenting the check. If it's not the same person, don't accept the check. It may be helpful in court to record on the check the South Carolina driver's license number or I.D. number as well as the expiration date. You need to copy this information yourself. Don't rely on the person presenting the check to verbally tell you the D.L. or I.D. number and don't rely on any number already printed on the check itself.
  4. The check must be deposited into an account of the payee within 10 days of its receipt.
  5. The bank must stamp or otherwise record on the check the reason for its dishonor.
  6. Upon return of the check from the bank, send a notice to the maker of the check by certified mail. The law does not require that you incur the extra expense of requiring the recipient to sign for the certified mail. If you are going to redeposit the check, wait until you verify its subsequent dishonor before sending the notice.
  7. The notice must be substantially as follows:

      You are notified that a check or instrument, numbered ______, issued by you on __(date)__, drawn upon __(name of bank)__, and payable to __(name of payee)__, has been dishonored.

      Pursuant to South Carolina law, you have ten days from the date this notice was mailed to tender payment of the full amount of the check or instrument plus a service charge of thirty dollars, the total amount due being ______ dollars and _______ cents.

      Unless this amount is paid in full within the specified time above, the holder of the check or instrument may turn over the dishonored check or instrument and all other available information relating to this incident to the solicitor or other appropriate officer for criminal prosecution.

  8. Wait 10 full days from the date the notice was mailed.
  9. If you have not been paid the full amount of the check along with the $30.00 service charge, and you wish to sign an arrest warrant, proceed to the nearest magistrate in the county in which the check was written. You should bring the check, the certified mail receipt, and a copy of the notice for the magistrate to review. You will probably be required to execute an Application for Fraudulent Check Warrant form. If you have a number of fraudulent check cases to prosecute, it might expedite matters to print this form yourself and have it completed before you go to see the appropriate magistrate.

AFTER THE WARRANT HAS BEEN SIGNED:

Once a warrant is issued by a presiding judge, the warrant will be forwarded to the sheriff's office. If found, the defendant will be arrested and taken to jail. Shortly thereafter, a magistrate will set the defendants bond and a court date will be set.

In most, but not all cases, the defendant will be released on a reasonable bond prior to his court appearance. If, during this time, the defendant attempts to pay for the check and the service charge, or any portion thereof, accept the money. Taking a partial payment will not prejudice your position in the prosecution of your case. Do not give the original check back to the defendant, however, unless you are satisfied that there has already been a disposition make on the warrant. If you give the check back to the defendant, it will not be available for you to present in court as evidence. The court will not be collecting restitution for you. It does, however, require that defendants furnish proof, by way of receipt, that restitution has been paid to you. Please assist us by stamping, printing, or otherwise recording some official documentation of your identity on the receipt. If a partial payment is made, indicate clearly on the receipt that additional funds are due. Once there is a disposition of the warrant, the defendant is entitled to the return of his check. A clear indication that a case has ended is the defendant's possession of a receipt from the magistrate court indicating payment of court costs or a fine. The court can verify that a case is ended by telephone.

You will find that many courts in South Carolina will not allow you to take a partial or a full payment from the check writer after a warrant has been issued. Our position is to comply to the wishes of the court. If you are ever in doubt, contact the court prior to taking any funds from the check writer. Remember that only the judge who signed the warrant or the district attorney can resend the warrant.

You are urged to not request that a warrant be dismissed unless you discover that the warrant was issued in error, that the check was a forgery, or for some other good cause.

Do not sign an arrest warrant if you get reliable information that the check was stolen or forged. Two party checks are hard to prosecute because of the difficulty in proving an intent to defraud. If you attempt to prosecute a two party check case and lose, you will likely be sued later.

PENALTIES:

If the check is for $1000 or less, the case is triable in the magistrate court. The court has the discretion to dismiss a fraudulent check warrant upon satisfactory proof of restitution and may charge up to $41 in court costs from the defendant for each warrant dismissed.

The penalty for first offense uttering a fraudulent check for $500 or less is a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $200 or by imprisonment for not more than 30 days. The maximum penalty for first offense uttering a fraudulent check for more than $500, but not greater than $1000 is a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $500 or by imprisonment for not more than 30 days. Additionally, the court may add court costs of $41 to any fine.

STOP PAYMENT ON CHECKS:

If check payment is stopped, with the intent to defraud, and the goods or services given for the check were as warranted, then an arrest warrant can be issued under section 34-11-80 of the S.C. Code of Laws. The same procedures and penalties apply stipulated above. Anyone with a checking account is guaranteed by law the right to order his or her bank to stop payment of a check. This right is set out in article 4-403 of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) as adopted by a given state.

Two versions of this law have been adopted by each state over the years, with the later version adding some clarity to the earlier one. The basic rules are (subject to modification in a given state):

  1. The stop payment order may be given orally or in writing. An oral order is good for only 14 days. A written order is good for 6 months, unless renewed in writing.
  2. In the interest of time, the original order should be given orally, followed quickly by a written order. Time is critical, so deliver your written order in person or by fax. Use the mail only as a last resort. Keep evidence of the date of delivery, such as the confirmation slip from your fax machine.
  3. Both the oral and written orders must describe the check with reasonable certainty and be given promptly enough to allow the bank to act. The notice should include the bank account owner's exact name, date, payee name (person the check is made out to), and check number. If you do not recall any of this information exactly, supply the information best you can.
  4. If more than one person is authorized to sign checks or draw on an account, the stop payment order usually needs to come from only one of the authorized individuals. Ask your bank what it requires to make sure your order is effective. If time is critical, at least one authorized signer should give the stop payment order, followed as soon as possible by a written order with all required signatures.

    A proper stop payment order that is timely received must be honored by the bank. In other words, the bank must not pay the check or debit your account. If the bank improperly pays contrary to your order, the bank is liable for your loss.

BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL

It is important to remember that these rules only regulate the way stop payment orders are handled between you and your bank. If you write a check and then stop payment without good reason, you may create civil or even criminal liability for yourself.

For example, if you pay the grocery store with a check and then stop payment without justification, the grocer can ask that you be prosecuted for passing a bad check, or sue you in civil court.

Make sure that you have a good reason for stopping payment, such as default by the payee, fraud, failure to deliver the proper goods, or other significant problem.

BANK FEES:

Remember that your bank will impose a fee for providing the stop payment service. The fee is usually at least $10 per check, but can be much higher. Banks will sometimes waive the fee for their "good customers". Ask your banker if you can get a waiver.

STALE DATED CHECKS:

The payor bank holds all the cards here. Section 4-404 of the UCC places the ball firmly in the bank's court by stating that a bank is under no obligation to a customer having a checking account to pay a check which is presented more than six months after its date, but it may charge the customer's account for a payment made thereafter in good faith.

This provision is intended to protect the payor bank as, once again, the date is not in the MICR line and often is not noticed prior to payment of the check.

The bank may thus

  1. pay the check and be protected, or
  2. refuse to pay the check and be protected.

The one thorn in this otherwise pretty provision is the requirement that the payment be in good faith. Generally that is interpreted as meaning the bank can't have reason to know the customer does not want the check paid. There have been numerous cases dealing with the question of whether an expired stop payment order puts the bank on such notice. Generally, the answer in most cases has been that it does not.


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