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Writing a bad check is a criminal offense and carries a wide range of civil and/or criminal penalties, depending on state law, the amount of the bad check, and other factors. In most states it’s considered a misdemeanor, but in others a felony, and penalties can range from simple civil fines, to thousands of dollars in criminal fines, and even prison time for serious offenses. Generally, a complaint must be filed with the district attorney, sheriff or other appropriate criminal justice office in order for legal action to be taken against the writer of a bad check. In most states, bad check laws don’t apply to preexisting debts, because the law doesn’t consider it to deprive the payee of any current right or value. Similarly, bad check laws don’t generally apply to post-dated checks, because they’re considered a promise to pay in the future. Finally, honest mistakes aren’t usually prosecuted when promptly recognized and remedied.