Charged with check fraud in Texas. Should I be worried?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I received a check in the mail which was made out to another person. I signed my name and cashed the check. I live in the State of Texas. I have been arrested. I am wondering what penalties and fines I might face if I am charged and prosecuted for my crime?”

What is stolen check fraud in Texas?

Committing fraud in the state of Texas can include check forgery, credit card fraud, and credit fraud. Although the charges for stealing a stolen check may not be considered as serious as robbery, burglary, or forging a government document, if the police have probable cause to believe you have committed a crime, they will arrest you.

So what does it mean to steal a check?

Stealing or receiving a stolen check in the State of Texas is defined as “stealing an unsigned check or similar sight order or, with knowledge that an unsigned check or similar sight order has been stolen, receives the check or sight order with intent to use it, to sell it, or to transfer it to a person other than the person from whom the check or sight order was stolen” (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 32.24. Stealing or Receiving stolen check or similar site order).

What penalties can you expect?

Most first time check fraud charges (for low amounts) are generally considered a Class A misdemeanor. If you are charged with a Class A Misdemeanor you can receive up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $4,000.

Other forgery charges, however, can include forging a will, deed, credit card, or other contract. If you are charged with a state jail felony you may be punished with 18 months to 2 years in jail and fined up to $10,000. If you are charged with a third degree felony you may be punished with 2 to 10 years in prison and fined up to $10,000.

Should I be concerned about a criminal charge for fraud?

Although you did not say for sure, it sounds like you might have been charged with a Class A misdemeanor charge. While a misdemeanor charge is not as serious as a state jail felony or a third degree felony, having any type of criminal record, especially if you are working in a financial field, can limit your future employment opportunities.

If you have been charged with a felony, however, the long-term consequences can be very serious. In fact, most felony convictions cannot be expunged, making it difficult to work certain types of jobs, rent a house, get professional licenses, vote, or own a gun.

Defenses against a check fraud case in Texas

If you have been charged with check fraud in Texas, you intentionally committed the offense, and the state has sufficient evidence to win their case against you, you can talk to your defense lawyer about the best course of action.

In certain cases, however, you may have had no intent to defraud anyone, you believed you were authorized to sign the check, you were mistakenly identified, or the crime did not actually occur. In this case, it’s important to discuss your charges with your defense lawyer.

It’s also important to note, however, that all criminal cases are different. Your lawyer will need to review the details of your fraud case to determine your culpability. Given the complexity of certain criminal enterprises, there are times when someone has unwittingly perpetuated a crime for another party without intent. Discuss this with your lawyer if you believe this has happened to you.

Bottom Line:

It sounds like you made a mistake and recognize what you did was wrong. Unfortunately, it’s small steps in the wrong direction that often lead to a life of crime. It’s time to find a criminal lawyer and find out what steps you need to take now.

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