You postdate a check by writing a future date on it. People typically do this when they want to give a check to someone but aren't certain they'll have enough money in their account until a certain date to cover it. State and federal laws cover the cashing and depositing of postdated checks, and laws vary from state to state. It's not illegal to postdate a check, unless you're attempting to commit fraud.
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Intentional Act to Defraud
You can land in legal trouble if you intentionally postdate a check knowing there will be no money in your account or the account will be closed by the check's date. To defraud someone in such a way for goods and services is illegal in all states. Punishment for perpetrators varies from state to state, but includes fines, probation and imprisonment, depending on the severity of the fraud, as well as restitution to the person, people or entity defrauded.
State Laws for Honest Postdating
If you want to write a postdated check just hoping it won't be cashed before a certain date, check your state's law first. Some states, including California and Georgia, place responsibility on check writers to ensure their checks are not cashed or deposited too quickly. Other states, like West Virginia, place responsibility on the person the check is written to. Often, bank tellers don't even look at the date while handling checks. While it's best to avoid postdating checks so you don't run the risk of getting hit with bounced check fees, you can contact the bank with a written or verbal request to hold the check until the future date.
Working with the Bank
Since it requires the bank to take similar steps to a stop-payment on a check, the bank might charge you a fee for requesting that it ensures postdated checks are held until the right date. Most state laws say that if you notified your bank about a post-dated check in writing a reasonable time before it receives the check, your bank is legally required to honor your request for six months or the bank will be liable for your fees. With an oral notice, your request is good for only 14 days. Your request should include the recipient's name, your account and check numbers, and the check's amount.
Recipient Rights and Responsibilities
Check recipients can either decide to accept or not accept a post-dated check. A recipient can also check with her bank to see if it will cash it before the check's date, which the bank should not do if the writer has requested it doesn't. But recipients should also check state law. In West Virginia, for example, the law prohibits someone from requesting or accepting a postdated check if he intends to deposit or cash it before the check's date. If he does cash it early, he can be made to pay fees and costs as well as potential civil penalties.
Federal Law Prohibitions
Federal law regarding postdated checks relates to debt collection. For example, it prohibits debt collectors from accepting checks postdated more than five days away, unless the debt collector has notified the check writer in writing it will do so. Also, debt collectors cannot threaten someone with cashing postdated checks early. Debt collectors breaking these rules could face civil penalties.