Bad Checks in Colorado
C.R.S. 18-5-512

Under Colorado law, it is a crime to pay with a check knowing that you do not have enough money to cover the funds. Issuing a bad check is a class 3 misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to six months in jail and $750 in fines. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

Under Colorado law, it is a crime to pay with a check knowing that you do not have enough money to cover the funds.

1. What is a “bad check”?

A person that issues or passes a check for the payment of money, knowing that the issuer does not have sufficient funds with the bank for the payment in full of the check at the time of issuance has committed the crime of issuing a bad check.1

“Insufficient funds” means not having enough of a balance on account with the bank for the payment of the check when it is presented and remains unpaid for 30 days after presentment.2

To be convicted the person issuing the check has to know they do not have enough to cover the funds. This requires the prosecution to establish the defendant's state of knowledge of the offense. The defendant's knowledge may be presumed that the check is bad if:

  • They do not have an account with the bank or another drawee at the time the bad check is issued; or
  • They have insufficient funds upon deposit with the bank or another drawee to pay the check 30 days after the bad check is issued.3

You may not be presumed to know the check was bad if you post-dated the check or money order. However, postdating a check or money order is not a defense to bad check charges if you know the account would not have enough funds to cover the check.

2. What are the penalties for writing a bad check in Colorado?

Issuing a bad check is classified as a class 3 misdemeanor. The penalties for writing a back check include up to 6 months in jail and a fine of between $50 and $750. As a condition to qualify for a pretrial diversion program, the defendant may also have to pay restitution by making payment to the original designated payee.4

3. What are defenses to Colorado charges for writing a bad check?

There are several possible defenses your attorney may raise if you're facing charges of issuing a bad check. These include showing that:

  • You honestly did not know there were insufficient funds in your account;
  • You post-dated the check, but your paycheck or other incoming funds were delayed for some reason beyond your control;
  • You placed a stop payment on the check after issuance (you realized funds were insufficient, so you made a good faith effort to stop the check)

For example, let's say you mistakenly thought that your checking account was linked to your savings account and any extra fund would be drawn out of the savings. If the checking account does not have enough to cover the funds, but your savings did, you may have a defense to bad check charges. However, your bank and the original payee may still charge fees or penalties for writing a check with insufficient funds.

4. Related Offenses

4.1 Fraud by Check C.R.S. 18-5-205

Writing a check with the knowledge that there are insufficient funds and with intent to defraud is the Colorado crime of check fraud. This includes issuing a check for the payment of services, salary, rent, money, property, or other things of value. The penalties for fraud by check will depend on the value of the fraud involved. Amounts less than $50 are a petty offense and amounts greater than $2,000 are a class 6 felony.

4.2 Theft/Larceny C.R.S. 18-4-401

Theft, or larceny, involves using someone else's property in a manner that deprives the other person permanently of the use or benefit of the property. Writing bad checks to obtain things of value may be considered a type of theft. The punishment for theft is based on the value of the property stolen. Charges range from petty offenses (items less than $50) to a class 2 felony (items valued at greater than one million dollars).

Call us for help...

If you are facing criminal charges for writing a bad check, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with misdemeanor and felony theft offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.

Legal References

  1. C. R. S. 18-5-512(3)
  2. C. R. S. 18-5-512(2)
  3. C. R. S. 18-5-512(4)
  4. C. R. S. 18-5-512(6)


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