Written by attorney Carolyn Agin Schmidt

Check Fraud in MN: Penalties and Plea Options

What starts as a difficult financial situation or a bad decision can easily turn into a criminal conviction in Minnesota. Check fraud in Minnesota can be punishable by hefty fines and even imprisonment. Check fraud can take on many different forms, but most commonly, check fraud involves forging a check or writing a bad or dishonored check.

Check Fraud

As knowledge of computers and technology expands, it has become increasingly easy to produce counterfeit checks using desktop publishing programs or advanced color copiers. Computer programs allow people to create fake checks, copy the routing number from valid checks, and pass them off as authentic. In addition, chemical alterations, including spot-alteration or check-washing, make it possible to remove or manipulate information on checks and financial documents, including routing numbers and account numbers.

Another form of check fraud involves theft of a blank check from ones home, purse, or office, or removing and altering a check from someone’s mailbox. Check fraud may also include something as simple as changing the amount on a valid check, for example, making a “1" look like a “9".

Writing a Bad Check

What a lot of people might not know is that writing a bad or dishonored check can also be subject to criminal penalties under certain circumstances. For example, purposely writing checks on a closed or nonexistent account or writing a check knowing that there are insufficient funds are punishable offenses under Minnesota law (MN Stat. § 609.535). In Minnesota, issuing a bad check carries with it civil penalties, as well as criminal sanctions.


Depending on the circumstances and the amount of money involved, courts may impose significant fines or even lengthy prison sentences, ranging from a few months to several years. If charged with check forgery or offering a forged check, the accused may face weighty prison sentences and hefty fines, depending on the amount:

  • More than $35,000 - imprisonment up to 20 years or payment of a maximum fine of $100,000, or both.
  • More than $2,500 - imprisonment up to ten years or payment of a maximum fine of $20,000, or both.
  • More than $250 but less than $2,500 - imprisonment up to five years or payment of a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

The “bad check" laws in Minnesota also carry fines and potential incarceration, depending on the amount involved:


$500 or greater – Maximum five years in jail and $10,000 in fines.

Gross Misdemeanor

Greater than $250 but less than $5000 – Maximum one year in jail and $3,000 in fines.


Less than $250 – Up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Defenses to a Check Fraud Charge

Working with a qualified and experienced attorney, you may be able to assert several defenses if you are facing charges of check forgery or issuing a bad check. Once your attorney is fully informed of all the facts of the case and has reviewed all evidence against you, she will advise you about the best way to proceed in your case, whether it be a settlement or trial.

Plea Options

There are many possible settlement options in these type of cases. These options include an agreement for lesser charges and/or sentence. Also, Minnesota law provides alternative channels to divert some cases out of the criminal justice system and allow defendants the opportunity to avoid a criminal conviction. It is important that you choose an experienced attorney, who knows all the options for the best possible outcome of your case.

Superb Legal Representation

If you are facing a criminal conviction for forging a check or writing a bad check, the Law Office of Carolyn Agin Schmidt can help. You have a lot at stake, and we will fight hard to ensure the best possible results and to protect your interest and your future. Call us today.

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