Bounced Check Expungment

How do I Expunge a Bounced Check Charge in Pennsylvania?

Remember when we all used checks instead of credit cards or online payments? Even now, some landlords and small businesses still prefer checks over electronic payments. As a result, it can be possible to inadvertently write a check and then no longer have sufficient funds in the account when the vendor later tries to deposit the money. Writing a check with insufficient funds is called writing a bad check or "bouncing" a check, and it can happen to the best of us. Fortunately, if you end up with a charge for writing a bad check in Pennsylvania, you may be able to have it expunged or sealed. An expungement is a court order to remove or destroy all administrative or criminal records related to an arrest, charge, or conviction in Pennsylvania. 

What Can I Expunge in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you can have a charge expunged if:

  • You were never convicted, including not guilty verdicts, dismissed or dropped charges, and nolle prose dispositions, or
  • Your conviction was a summary offense, and you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years.

A summary offense is a minor crime, less serious than a misdemeanor or felony. The maximum penalty for a summary offense is typically 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. However, a summary offense conviction will usually result in just a fine. You typically can't expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction except in very rare circumstances. You may, however, be eligible to have misdemeanor charges sealed.

Bouncing a Check in Pennsylvania

You may be eligible to have a charge or conviction for bouncing a bad check expunged in Pennsylvania if it was a summary offense. Whether a bad check charge is a summary offense, a misdemeanor, or a felony in Pennsylvania depends on the check's amount and whether it's a third or subsequent offense. Pennsylvania law defines passing a bad check or "bouncing a check" as:

(1)  A person commits an offense if he issues or passes a check or similar sight order for the payment of money, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee.

(2)  A person commits an offense if he, knowing that it will not be honored by the drawee, issues or passes a check or similar sight order for the payment of money when the drawee is located within this Commonwealth. A violation of this paragraph shall occur without regard to whether the location of the issuance or passing of the check or similar sight order is within or outside of this Commonwealth. It shall be no defense to a violation of this section that some or all of the acts constituting the offense occurred outside of this Commonwealth.

18 Pa. Code § 4105(a) (2007). The law presumes the person writing the check knows that the check is bad if:

(i)  payment was refused because the issuer had no such account with the drawee at the time the check or order was issued; or

(ii)  payment was refused by the drawee for lack of funds, upon presentation within 30 days after issue, and the issuer failed to make good within ten days after receiving notice of that refusal.

18 Pa. Code § 4105(b) (2007).

Bouncing a check in Pennsylvania can be anything from a summary offense to a felony, depending on the check's amount and whether this is the first offense. Grading of the crime includes:

  • Summary Offense: Check is less than $200.
  • Third-Degree Misdemeanor: Check is $200 to $499.
  • Second-Degree Misdemeanor: Check is $500 to $999.
  • First-Degree Misdemeanor: The check is $1,000 to $74,999, or this is a third or subsequent offense in five years.
  • Felony: Check is $75,000 or more, or this is a third or subsequent offense of $75,000 or more in five years.

Can I Expunge a Bounced Check Charge?

You may be able to expunge a bounced check charge if:

  • The police charged you with writing a bad check, but the court didn't convict you, including not guilty verdicts, dropped charges, dismissed charges, and nolle prosse dispositions.
  • You completed the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or a similar diversionary program where you finished probation without a conviction. 
  • Your conviction was a summary offense, and you've been free from arrest or prosecution for five years.

You cannot expunge misdemeanor or felony bounced check convictions unless:

  • You are at least 70 years old, and ten years have passed since the criminal proceedings, or
  • The subject of the criminal record has been dead for at least three years.

If you don't meet one of the criteria above, you probably can't expunge your bad check conviction. You may be able to have those records sealed or request a pardon from the state. In some cases, the state will automatically seal records for:

  •  Nonviolent misdemeanor convictions that are ten years or older,
  • Records with no conviction,
  • Criminal arrests if you weren't convicted,
  • Charges where the court or jury found you not guilty, and
  • Misdemeanor offenses punishable by less than two years in prison.

Juvenile Bounced Check Charges

You may be able to expunge a bounced check conviction if it happened when you were under 18, and it was a summary offense. There are several situations where you can expunge juvenile summary offense crimes, including:

  • You are now 18, and at least six months have passed since you completed your disposition, or
  • It has been five years since you completed your sentence or disposition, and
  • You haven't had any misdemeanor or felony charges during that time, and 
  • You don't have any currently pending summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony charges.

A skilled Pennsylvania expunction attorney can discuss the full range of options for expunging or sealing your juvenile records for writing a bad check.

Hire a Pennsylvania Attorney Experienced in Expunctions

If you have a conviction for writing a bad check, the best way to clear your record and protect your future professional and personal reputation is to consult a skilled Pennsylvania expungement attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal defense attorney proficient in helping clients expunge criminal records. He can help. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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