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In the state of NM if a family member in need of a muzzle accepts 500$ to write a check for rent and cancels the check after its already been turned in, and then refuses to return the 500$, is this illegal? Can they be dealt with or is it outside of the law?

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    "In need of a muzzle"?? Is that a typo, or some expression I don't know? – Nate Eldredge Nov 17 '18 at 0:44
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if a family member in need of a muzzle accepts 500$ to write a check for rent and cancels the check after its already been turned in, and then refuses to return the 500$, is this illegal?

Yes, it is illegal.

Admittedly the presumption pointed out by Greendrake is new to me. However, the act of issuing a check may evidence the family member's intention to create a legal relation, thereby defeating the presumption otherwise (?) applicable to family agreements. Subsequent regret (as reflected by withdrawal of the check) does not negate the contract elements of offer and acceptance, especially if the family member received the $500 before canceling the check.

Regardless of the payer's ability to prove the existence of a contract, the matter seemingly meets the prima facie elements of both fraud and promissory estoppel if the payer proves his reliance on the family member was reasonable. That is because the family member received the amount and now refuses to return it (with no apparent justification).

For the elements of promissory estoppel, see Havens v. C & D Plastics, Inc., 124 Wn.2d 158, 171-172 (1994):

(1) [a] promise which (2) the promisor should reasonably expect to cause the promisee to change his position and (3) which does cause the promisee to change his position (4) justifiably relying upon the promise, in such a manner that (5) injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise.

As for fraud, see McNulty v. Chip, 116 A.3d 173, 182-83 (R.I. 2015):

the plaintiff must prove that the defendant made a false representation intending thereby to induce [the] plaintiff to rely thereon and that the plaintiff justifiably relied thereon to his or her damage.

Because of the amount at issue is lower than $10,000, this would have to be litigated in small claims court.

Although I am not reading the actual court opinions of the cases listed on Wikipedia (see the other answer), their summaries seem inapplicable here also from the standpoint of mutual, reciprocal benefit between the parties. For instance in the Balfour v. Balfour case, the husband was not receiving any consideration from the wife at all.

  • "the act of issuing a check may evidence the family member's intention to create a legal relation" is resoundingly false. Family members routinely give money by check as gifts and favors, so often that there mere issuance of a check is meaningless as evidence of a contract. This is why additional evidence is needed to prove that the intent was to form a contract, beyond one party giving the other some money. – user6726 Nov 17 '18 at 17:21
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    @user6726 That is why I wrote "may" instead of using an unequivocal term. Yes, weighing additional circumstances could help, but having received $500 at about the same time, the family member's allegation that either transaction (the check or the $500) was intended as a gift or favor does not sound very persuasive. – Iñaki Viggers Nov 17 '18 at 17:28
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Because that was a family member, presumption of no intention to create legal relations applies — unless there was an evidence of the opposite (e.g. a written agreement).

On the face of it, there was no written agreement or other evidence of intention to create legal relations. Therefore, there is no enforceable contract, and the person cannot be dealt with in legal terms.

  • The payee of the check can still come after the maker for passing a bad check, no? That's usually a crime, or at least a civil liability. But since it is a rent check, they can also insist on collecting from the tenants. – Nate Eldredge Nov 17 '18 at 0:42
  • Stopped checks are excluded from the class of 'bad checks' under NM law. – user6726 Nov 17 '18 at 0:52
  • @user6726: Huh. It looks like you're right, but that seems like a surprising omission. – Nate Eldredge Nov 17 '18 at 1:07
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    People shouldn't downvote an answer because they don't like it, when it is the correct answer. – gnasher729 Nov 17 '18 at 14:33
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    @gnasher729 I agree. Even if the answer is incorrect but is well substantiated, it should not be downvoted either. The most apt jurists can reach different conclusions (see how frequently dissenting opinions are issued in case decisions), whence online/anonymous downvoting of a thought-provoking post or answer is a sign of arrogance. – Iñaki Viggers Nov 17 '18 at 17:20
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Under an unjust-enrichment theory (pursued in small claims court), the check-writer would need to show why they should be allowed to keep the $500. This avoids the contract law problems attached to assuming that a familial interaction is contractual. Demonstrating fraud might be possible, if the check-writer never intended to write a cashable check, but coming up with evidence to show that would be tricky.

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