Bad Check Laws In Tennessee


Anyone who writes a bad check in the state of Tennessee and fails to make good on that check within 10 days of being notified could be subject to jail time and monetary fines.

State Of Tennessee

Bad Checks

A bad check is any check that is written on an account that is closed or on an account that does not have sufficient funds to cover the bad check.

Checking Account Safety Net

The cheapest penalty to avoiding a bad check charge is to carry overdraft protection. Banks offer overdraft protection for a fee, and in return, they pay checks that are worth more than the available balance in the checking account. the check writer is then subjected to the bank's rules and regulations for bringing their account back into the black.

Tennessee Worthless Check Laws

Tennessee's bad check laws can be found under codes TC 47-29-101 and TC 39-14-121. TC 47-29-101 pertains to the legal ramifications of writing a bad check. TC-39-14-121 describes what types of checks can be prosecuted under the law.

Tennessee Code 47-29-101

TC 47-29-101 contains both civil and criminal penalties for writing bad checks in Tennessee.


The merchant that accepted the bad check can immediately ask for 10% more than the check is worth up to $20. In order to pursue criminal charges, the merchant must notify the individual, and the individual must be given a minimum of 10 days to pay the amount of the check and any service charges.

If the individual fails to pay the check within 10 days, the merchant can go to court and fill out paperwork to start a legal collection process.

The punishments doled out for writing bad checks are determined by the amount of the check. Checks that are $500 or less are regarded as misdemeanor offenses. Bad checks written for more than $500 are considered felonies. More information on punishments for felonies and misdemeanors can be found on the University of Tennessee website.


Misdemeanors are classified "A" through "C" with Class A misdemeanors being the most severe. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable with a maximum of 11 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and/or a maximum fine of $500. A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and/or a fine of $50.


A bad check is punishable with a felony if the check exceeds $500.

- Class C

Bad checks written for between $10,000 and $60,000 are considered Class C felonies. If an individual is convicted of a Class C felony they could spend between three and 15 years in jail and pay fines of up to $10,000.

- Class D

Bad checks written for between $10,000 and $60,00 are considered Class D felonies and are punishable with a maximum of 12 years in jail and fines of up to $5,000.

- Class E

Bad checks written for between $500 and $1,000 are considered Class E felonies and are punishable by up to six years in prison and fines of up to $3,000.

Tennessee's Worthless Check Law 39-14-121

In the state of Tennessee, a check is only considered worthless if it is written for a current or future item or service. This means that a check written to pay for a completed job or services that were already rendered is not a worthless check.

Therefore, it is extremely important that merchants not accept post-dated checks, checks for services that were already completed or checks that are part of a payment plan or pre-written contract. If these questions result in an answer of "yes," the company could be prosecuted.

In addition, the individual or company that accepts the check must make sure that the check was not reported stolen and must be willing to pursue legal action and sign a warrant for the individual's arrest.

Getting A Warrant For A Bad Check

The city of Memphis police department has posted the procedure for getting a warrant against a bad check.

In order to get a warrant for a bad check, the individual or company that accepted the bad check must be willing to provide their name or the corporate name, the name, home phone number and address of the individual who accepted the bad check, the bad check writer's picture, the date of the notice that was sent to the bad check writer, a receipt stating that a "Demand of Payment" letter was sent, the personal information of the bad check writer, including the bad check writer's social security number, home address, name and driver's license number as well as a description of the individual. In addition, the personal information of anyone who can identify the bad check writer must also be given.

For further information on writing or passing a bad check and for civil and criminal penalties in other states under the laws of issuing bad checks, please read Bad Check Laws.

Find out how to Prevent Overdraft And Bounced Check Fees.
Learn about Fraudulent Checks And Withdrawals.