7.7.10 Criminal Defense Newsletter

Larceny by Check

In the Commonwealth, the crime of larceny by check is governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266 Section 37. Larceny by check is the legal term given to the crime of check fraud. Larceny by check occurs when an individual, who has the intent to defraud, obtains goods or services by writing a check with the knowledge that there are insufficient funds in the individual’s account.

In order for an individual to be convicted of the crime of larceny by check, the Commonwealth must prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. First, the Commonwealth must prove that the individual did one of four different things. The individual either wrote a check, cashed a check, passed a check or delivered a check drawn upon an account at a Bank. Here, it is important to note that this law applies to individuals at all different stages of check fraud, whether they are writing the checking, cashing the check or passing it on at some stage in between.
  2. Second, it must be proven that money, property or services were obtained because of the individual’s actions with regard to the check. Therefore, an individual cannot be found guilty of this crime if he or she did not actually obtain a benefit and merely attempted to obtain a benefit.
  3. Third, the Commonwealth must prove that when the individual committed the act in question, he or she knew that the person who wrote the check did not have sufficient funds to cover the check at the bank on which the check was drawn.
  4. Fourth, it must be proven that the individual committed the act in question with the intent to defraud the bank or the person who received the check.

There are two important things that should be noted about this law. First, the definition of the word “bank” is very broad, and this law applies to other depositories as well as banks. Second, an individual can be convicted of the crime of attempted larceny by check even if no money, property or services were obtained by the individual being charged with the crime.

There is also another twist to this law. If the individual was notified by the bank that payment was refused due to insufficient funds, and the individual failed to make good on the check within 2 days, the courts permits it to be inferred that at the time the check was written the individual knew that there were insufficient funds in the bank to cover the amount of the check AND that the check was written with the intent to defraud.

Punishment

The punishment for the crime of larceny by check is the same as the punishment for larceny. It should be noted that a civil suit may also be brought to recover the face amount of a bounced check and for additional damages.

If the value of the stolen property is greater than $250.00, the individual can be punished by being sentenced to up to 5 years in the state prison or by up to 2 years in jail combined with a fine of up to $25,000.00. Larceny by stealing property worth more than $250.00 is a felony.

If the value of the stolen property is $250.00 or less, the individual can be punished by being sentenced to up to 1 year in jail or by a fine of up to $300.00. Larceny by stealing property worth $250.00 or less is a misdemeanor.

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