Writing bad checks can give you a criminal record and be reported by your bank to consumer reporting agencies. A criminal record can make it difficult to find a job, and a negative banking report can keep you from opening an account at another bank. In some cases, however, you may be eligible to expunge this information from your records.
Expunging a Criminal Record
Research laws in your state regarding the expunging of criminal records. In some states you have the right to ask the court to expunge some criminal convictions providing that your case meets certain criteria. For example, in Mississippi, if your bad check conviction was a first offense you may be eligible for an expungement five years after you complete all the conditions of your sentence.
Contact a lawyer if possible. If you can't afford a lawyer, you may be able to get legal advice through your local legal aid office. A lawyer can explain the process of expungement, which can be a complex process.
Download or request expungement forms from the courthouse that has jurisdiction over your case. In addition to completing the forms, you may have to pay a fee and you may have to have papers served to the district attorney's office.
File the papers with the court and, if necessary, arrange for the sheriff or a process server to serve the request for expungement to the appropriate parties. In some places, you may also have to attend a court hearing.
Contact companies that produce banking consumer reports and request a copy of your report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have a right to one free copy of your three reports each year. There are several companies, such as ChexSystems, that produce banking consumer reports. If a bank denies your application for an account, it must tell you if it used a consumer report in its decision and must also tell you the name of the company that issued the report.
Review the report. If the information is incorrect, you have a right to request an investigation. If the information can't be verified, it must be removed.
Contact the bank that placed the negative information on your report. If the information is true, it isn't obligated to change or remove the information. You can, however, write a short explanation of the circumstances surrounding the bad check for inclusion in your report.
If you bounce a check and your creditor reports you to the authorities, you may be eligible to participate in a restitution program that keeps you out of the criminal justice system. Each area's program works differently, but they often require you to both pay your creditor and complete a course in responsible checking account management.
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.