Can a Photocopy of a Check be Used as Evidence in Court Instead of the Original?

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“My bank no longer returns originals of cheques which have cleared my account.  Instead, it encloses a photocopy of the face of the cheque.  Recently I asked for the original, since I had endorsed the back ‘in full settlement’ of a debt .  The check was in the agreed-upon sum. I was shocked to learn that the bank destroys the original checks! The bank assured me, however, that the photocopy provided me by the bank was sufficient evidence to take to court, should the payee dispute the issue.

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This troubles me.  If the payee wants to pursue me for more money, I have no official warranty by the bank that the copy of the cheque is an accurate copy.   The level of assurance that I would want would be along the lines of the statement a notary makes:  “I compared the copy with the original and I swear that it is a true copy.”

Or at least the bank should have warned me that the photocopy of the face of the cheque was not robust evidence.

Would a photocopy of a cheque be accepted as evidence in a courtroom?”

It seems as if the real issue here is that you wrote “in full settlement” of on the back of the check, which is no longer available to you.  Many people believe that by writing “in full settlement” or “paid in full”, it means that the person accepting the check is agreeing that the debt has been paid in full, and can’t ask for more (even if the debt being paid was more than the amount of the check). This is not accurate.  So, if you were to go to court over this debt and the check, and the other party said that you still owed them more – and presented evidence that you still owed them more – even if you had the original, the statement “in full settlement” would not, by itself, be evidence that the debt was settled.

As to whether a court would accept a photocopy of the check, that depends on the laws of the state and even the local rules of the local court.  Getting a letter from the bank explaining that they only provide photocopies, to submit to the court along with the photocopy, however, would be prudent.



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Author: House Attorney

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