Will a case be filed against me for BP 22 or estafa if the bounced checks were from seven years ago? I did not get any notice from the lending firm.
Violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (BP 22) or the Anti-Bouncing Checks Law and Estafa are two different crimes. According to Section 1 of BP 22, the act being punished is the making or drawing of any check to apply on account or for value, knowing that at the time of issue, the check has insufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of the check in full upon its presentment. Basically, it is the issuance of a check that is dishonored due to insufficiency of funds or the drawer, without any valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment of the said check. The act is punishable by imprisonment of not less than thirty (30) days but not more than one (1) year or by a fine of not less than but not more than double the amount of the check, which shall not exceed P200,000, or both fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court. Section 1 of Act No. 3326 states that the prescriptive period for filing a complaint for violation of BP 22 is four (4) years from the day of the commission of the violation of the law, or if not known at that time, from the discovery thereof.
Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code defines Estafa with the use of checks. In Estafa, the check, is issued prior to or simultaneous to the commission of a fraud and the said check was dishonored due to insufficiency of funds. The punishment for Estafa is dependent on the value of the fraud, and may range from the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum to medium period (1 month to 2 months and 2 months and 1 day to four months) up to prision correc-cional in its maximum period (4 years, 2 months and 2 days to 6 years) to prision mayor in its minimum period (6 years and 1 day to 8 years). Depending on the penalty, the prescriptive period for filing a complaint for Estafa may be from five (5) years to fifteen (15) years from the time the crime is discovered by the offended parties, the authorities, or their agents.
BP 22 punishes the mere act of issuing a worthless check, while in Estafa, there must be fraud committed prior or simultaneous to the issuance of the check. The penalties also differ.
Therefore, if the crime you allegedly committed was BP 22, the lending company has four (4) years to file a case against you from the day of the commission of the crime or from the date of dishonor of the check. In Estafa, the time to file a case prescribes depending on the value of the fraud.
The notice to you that your check bounced or was dis-honored will only provide the prosecution with a prima facie evidence of deceit constituting false pretense or fraudulent act in Estafa and prima facie evidence of knowledge of such insufficiency of funds or credit in BP 22. This means that if the drawee was notified of the dishonor of his check, the fact of fraud or knowledge of insufficiency of funds is already established.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org