How much trouble could writing a bad check get you in?
January 30, 2006 2:51 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine from Ireland did some things that were a tad bit illegal when he lived in California about seven years ago. Now I live in California, and he's considering visiting, but he's worried. Should he be?

We're not talking bank robbery or embezzlement here. He had a couple traffic fines he didn't pay (speeding and an illegal left turn), and he bounced a couple checks (totalling around $500) on an account he abandoned after he left. This all happened when he was working in the US in 1999.

So the question is: is he in any danger of being arrested, deported, barred from the country for twenty years , or even looked at funny should he return? My own feeling is that this is highly unlikely, but I'm not the one who could get arrested, so I thought I'd check here to see if anyone has any insight into the matter, or any idea where I might find some resources to give me a definitive answer. Also, he's considering flying into the US at New York and then heading out to California from there. Would that make a difference at all?

Any help much appreciated...
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (13 answers total)
The bouncing checks is the bad one. Call the bank and clear it up. The traffic fines, not so much, although failure to appear can cause a warrant to be issued.

But ... it's entirely possible that there are warrants for his arrest because of either issue, which may turn up at airport check-in or at other times (e.g. he is stopped again for some other reason). If he's in the States when this happens and he is arrested, he's potentially in a world of hurt. A possible scenario in case of arrest in the U.S. is a semi-lengthy jail stay while arrangements are made with his home country, deportation and possible prosecution in Ireland.

The federal agency in question is ICE -- Immigration and Criminal Enforcement. In theory, he could also talk to Irish authorities.
posted by frogan at 3:18 PM on January 30, 2006

Scuse me -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement --
posted by frogan at 3:19 PM on January 30, 2006

The traffic issues could be bad as well; if either had a required appearance that he didn't show up for the judge simply signed a bench warrant and they went on with their day. I don't think they get checked at immigration - though they might - but if he's pulled over at a traffic stop or there's any other reason he might be stopped and open warrents checked on him, he'll be immediately arrested.
posted by phearlez at 3:34 PM on January 30, 2006

If he enters on a visa waiver, there's the little set of boxes that asks about any arrests or convictions (and whether you participating in the Holocaust). That doesn't seem to be an issue here. He might also want to make sure that he didn't overstay or violate the conditions of his visa while he lived in California: that's a biggie.

Also, he's considering flying into the US at New York and then heading out to California from there. Would that make a difference at all?

Well, if he arrives at JFK and says he's heading for California, and doesn't have a plausible explanation -- i.e. it's cheaper than a non-stop -- then it's going to set off other mental alarms.

He should try to clear up as much as possible.
posted by holgate at 3:39 PM on January 30, 2006

Yes, he should be worried. He needs to check things out with the US authorities in Ireland before he comes over. *BEFORE* is the important part.
posted by tiamat at 4:02 PM on January 30, 2006

I agree -- it's very possible he'll be turned back at immigration.

Typical story: A friend from Amsterdam was coming to the states for a friend's wedding. He was in his 20s, a student, dressed in old jeans and the like.

Immigration agents pulled him aside and asked him if he'd ever smoked pot. He answered yes, not fearing repercussions since it was legal when/where he did so. They turned him around as a "possible bad influence," or whatever the language is.
posted by o2b at 6:37 PM on January 30, 2006

Whatever happens, it'll happen in Ireland because us Paddies go through U.S. immigration there. My gut says that anything from 1999 won't be on their radar, but if he's at all nervous looking he could be pulled into their office - those guys are always looking for illegal Irish people going back to work.

And I've flown to NY before California in the past - I'm not sure about now, but Aer Lingus used to have quite infrequent San Fran and LA flight schedules.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:16 PM on January 30, 2006

IANAL, but the statue of limitations may have expired on both?
posted by arimathea at 7:26 PM on January 30, 2006

arimathea: the statute of limitations doesn't "expire" once you have been formally accused/indicted for an offense.
posted by reverendX at 8:30 PM on January 30, 2006

My brother has at least 1 unpaid speeding ticket in CA that I know of and has no problem entering the country. I really don't think their computer systems are that sophisticated.
posted by fshgrl at 9:39 PM on January 30, 2006

The moving violations aren't the problem per se, the problem will be if a bench warrant has been issued. Those don't expire and they'll show up on the computer screens of anyone in law enforcement. The only real variables are if a warrant was issued and if the warrant is linked to his present passport.
posted by Mitheral at 8:25 AM on January 31, 2006

God no he's fine. Most bounced checks in California go to private collection agencies, not the DA.(I know I use to collect on bad checks)as for the traffic fines, he's fine as long as he doesn't get pulled over driving in the county where he got them. So he's fine. As far as bench warrants, their by individual counties, just a way to make money. No one goes for jail for that unless you piss of a cop in person. He's cool(God what is wrong with you people)
posted by highgene at 12:39 AM on February 2, 2006

(God what is wrong with you people)

Yo've never entered the US as a foreigner, have you? It's a bit different.
posted by holgate at 12:43 AM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

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