Maryland Courts

Bad Checks

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a bad check violation?
Bad check violation vs. breach of contract
When can I charge someone with a bad check violation?
How do I file charges?
Tips to avoid accepting a bad check
Where do I file?

What is a bad check violation?
A bad check violation occurs when a person gives another person or business a bad check for an immediate exchange of goods or services.

Two conditions must be met to charge an individual with a bad check violation:

An immediate exchange of goods or services. A bounced check is not always a bad check violation. For example, payments under a contract, such as checks for rent, utilities, or car payments are not bad check violations. Debtors must be pursued through civil litigation in these instances.

The check must have been refused for payment upon presentation to the bank or institution on which it was drawn. The refusal for payment must have been for insufficient funds, an account that does not exist, is closed, or has a hold on it.

Bad check violation vs. breach of contract
If a customer gives you a check for an item and you agree to hold the check until a certain date or for a few days, then you are, in effect, extending credit to the customer. If the check is refused for payment after that time period, you cannot charge the person with a bad check violation. Because the exchange was not immediate, to recover the money owed to you, you must sue the person in civil court for breach of contract.

When can I charge someone with a bad check violation?
This depends on the reason the check was refused for payment.

If the check was refused due to insufficient funds, you must wait ten (10) days from the date of the refusal to bring charges. This gives the individual time to make good on their check.
If the check was refused because the account does not exist, is closed, or has a hold on it, you may file an application for charges immediately.

How do I file charges?
Complete an Application for Statement of Charges for Bad Check (form DC/CR 44). You must appear in person at the commissioner's station to do this because the commissioner will take a sworn statement from you that the information you provide is factual.

Bring a photocopy of the bad check, information about the dishonored check, a description of the goods or services the individual received, and any information you have about the individual who wrote the check (for example, the person's driver's license number, date of birth and a physical description). The commissioner cannot provide you with identifying information.

There are no court costs or fees for filing an Application for Charges.

Attend the trial, which will be held in the District Court. You are required to personally attend the trial to testify as to the facts of the case.

Please bring with you any identifying information about the defendant that you may have. The defendant's driver's license number, date of birth, and a physical description should be recorded on the application.

You should accept payment for the bad check in cash, certified check, or a money order, and give the debtor a receipt. If you accept another check as payment on a bad check, it does not qualify as a bad check violation if it bounces.

If restitution is made to you and you do not wish to proceed with criminal charges, you should notify the state's attorney's office and provide the case number, defendant's name and address, and the date you filed the application for charges.

Tips to avoid accepting a bad check:
Before accepting a check for payment:

  • Ask for a driver's license as identification.
  • Make sure the name and address on the check match the identification.
  • Make sure the check contains a check number on the top and preprinted Optical Character Reader numbers on the bottom.
  • Write the driver's license number and birth date on the check.
  • If the check is for a substantial amount, you may wish to call the bank and ask for verification that there are sufficient funds in the account to cover the amount of the check.

Where do I file?
File with a District Court Commissioner. For address, click here.