If you have a conviction for writing bad checks in Pennsylvania, you probably already know that it can affect your life even after you complete your sentence and pay your fine. Fortunately, in our state, we believe in second chances. That's why the Pennsylvania legislature created several options to clean up your criminal record for writing a bad check through expungement or sealing. While an expungement removes your criminal or arrest record from state records entirely, not everyone is eligible to expunge their criminal record. In these cases, you may still be able to shield your record from public access through record sealing.
Pennsylvania Bad Check Convictions and Punishments
You may face a conviction for a bad check charge if you issue or pass a check for the payment of money, knowing that your bank won't honor it. You can be found guilty of this charge in Pennsylvania if the bank is located in Pennsylvania, even if you wrote or passed the check outside the state. See 18 Pa. Stat. § 4105 (2008). Writing bad checks in Pennsylvania can be a summary offense, a misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the amount of money involved in the crime:
- Summary Offenses: Writing a bad check is a summary offense if the check amount is less than $22. A summary offense is punishable by a fine of up to $1,500 and up to three months in jail.
- Third-degree Misdemeanor: This crime is a third-degree misdemeanor if the check amount is more than $200 and less than $500. A third-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $3,000 and up to six months in jail.
- Second-degree Misdemeanor: Writing a bad check is a second-degree misdemeanor if the check amount is more than $500 and less than $1,000. In Pennsylvania, a second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 12 months in jail.
- First-degree Misdemeanor: This offense is a first-degree misdemeanor if the check amount is more than $1,000 and less than $75,000. If convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor, you can face a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in prison.
- Third-degree Felony: Writing a bad check is a third-degree felony if the check amount is more than $75,000. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree felony conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and up to three years in prison.
For a third or subsequent offense in five years, writing a bad check is a first-degree misdemeanor unless the check amount is more than $75,000.
As part of the sentence for a conviction, you must also reimburse:
- The face amount of the check
- Interest at the legal rate from the date the bank dishonored the check
- A service charge if the business where you wrote the bad check conspicuously displayed the service charge
Sealing Your Record
Pennsylvania law offers several options for sealing a bad check conviction, depending on the severity of the crime. You may be eligible to seal your bad check conviction automatically through the state's Clean Slate legislation or apply to seal your record under Act 5 legislation.
- Clean Slate Automatic Sealing Under Pennsylvania's Clean Slate legislation, the court will automatically seal your qualifying records, limiting public access, ten years after you've completed your sentence and paid all fines. You must remain free from conviction of any crime punishable by a year or more in prison. Records that qualify for automatic sealing include:
- Second or third-degree misdemeanors
- First-degree misdemeanors punishable by two years or less in prison
- Summary convictions after five years
- Charges that don't result in a conviction
Sealing a Bad Check Conviction
If you have a bad check conviction for either a summary offense, a third-degree misdemeanor, or a second-degree misdemeanor, the state may automatically seal your record from public access through Clean Slate sealing ten years after completing your sentence and paying all fines. During that time, you can't have any additional convictions punishable by a year or more in jail.
You can also apply to seal your bad check misdemeanor conviction after ten years under Act 5 sealing. To qualify for Act 5 sealing, you must remain free from arrest or conviction for crimes punishable by a year or more in prison. However, if you have a summary offense conviction for writing a bad check, Act 5 may allow you to seal your record sooner. In many cases, you can petition the court to seal your records only five years after completing your sentence and paying your fines. However, summary offenses are often eligible for expungement, which may be a better option than sealing. An experienced sealing and expungement attorney can advise you on your best options.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
Determining whether you can seal your misdemeanor record can be challenging on your own. Pennsylvania law offers several options for expungement and sealing records, all with different eligibility requirements. An attorney well versed in sealing and expunging records can advise you on whether you are eligible to seal your record and the best process to follow, making everything faster and more efficient. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping Pennsylvanians seal misdemeanors like bad check charges for years. Find out how they can help you. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation or contact them online today.