PROSECUTING FRAUDULENT CHECK WARRANTS
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:
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:
AFTER YOU SIGN THE WARRANT
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.
In most instances, the prosecution will not be notified to make a court appearance unless the defendant fails to appear in court or pleads not guilty. Thousands of fraudulent check cases are processed in the magistrate courts of this county each your with relatively few court appearances required on the part of prosecutors. Every one convicted either serves time in jail or is required to pay restitution. Many thousands of dollars are paid each year in the form of restitution as a results of our efforts. All we request from you is a little cooperation in order to make the criminal justice system function properly. We ask that you 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. We also ask that you try to make an appearance when we notify you of a court date.
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.
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.
If the check is for more than $1000, the case is triable in the circuit court. The maximum penalty for a first offense is 2 years and/or a $1000 fine. Subsequent convictions carry a maximum penalty of 10 years and/or a $2000 fine. Defendants charged with uttering fraudulent checks in this State for more than $1000 can, in the discretion of the solicitor, be arrested in other States and extradited back to South Carolina. Persons charged with uttering checks for $1000 or less can only be arrested in South Carolina.
STOP PAYMENT CHECKS
If 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.