California offers numerous welfare programs to help low-income citizens make ends meet. Because these are government programs, they are tightly regulated and anyone suspected of abusing the rules can face severe criminal consequences. Welfare fraud is a serious offense, outlined in section 10980 of California’s Welfare and Institutions Code. Many actions can result in a count of welfare fraud, which can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony. Generally, welfare crimes in California are punished through fines, jail time, and paying restitution to the state.
Fighting a welfare fraud charge is usually a challenge. The state keeps detailed records of all welfare applications, including who filled them out, when, and where. Because of the extensive records, it can be difficult to combat these kinds of charges. If you are accused of welfare fraud, you will need a lawyer willing to thoroughly investigate your case. We provide 100% free consultations. Contact us at (310) 424-5816 to speak with a lawyer about your possible defenses.
Punishments for Welfare Fraud
Welfare fraud can amount to a felony or misdemeanor, depending on past criminal history, how much money the government thinks you stole, and whether or not they accepted your application. Individuals who receive aid they know they are not entitled to in misdemeanor cases can face a sentence of up to six months in county jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. Felony welfare fraud is punishable by as much as three years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Criminal convictions have numerous residual consequences aside from the criminal penalties. A conviction for welfare fraud may prohibit you from receiving state welfare benefits in the future and could affect any professional licenses you may have.
Defending Against Welfare Fraud Accusations
A welfare fraud conviction depends on the prosecutor’s ability to prove the accused person’s intent at the time of the alleged fraud. That means the prosecutor will have to prove that you knew your actions were against the law and not a simple mistake. Some defenses against welfare fraud accusations include:
Intent – Your intention to break the law is important. If the prosecutor can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that your intention was to defraud the government for welfare benefits, you may be in danger of a conviction. However, this motive can be exceedingly difficult to prove. Welfare can be confusing for people, so it is possible to create reasonable doubt about an accused fraudster’s intentions. Were you intentionally defrauding the government, or did you simply forget to update your status with the state after a major life event? Your defense may rest on a question like this one.
Mistaken Application – If you had someone fill out a welfare application on your behalf and he or she made a mistake at any point, you could potentially be on the hook for welfare fraud. Such mistakes do not imply malicious intent, so this information is important for your defense.
No Criminal Purpose – Perhaps you helped someone fill out a welfare application and he or she lied to you about information. If you face charges of welfare fraud in such a situation, you may not be found guilty, because you were trying to help someone and they took advantage of you.
Prosecutor Failed to Prove Their Case – If the prosecutor is unable to make a strong enough case that you have committed this crime, you should be able to retain your freedom. Even though the state will have a lot of evidence, it may not all be useful. A good defense attorney will also try to create doubt in the state’s case against you at every turn. This tactic erodes the case against you and can be the difference between a guilty conviction and having the charges dropped.
Your lawyer can help you determine which defense will work best in your specific situation. Welfare fraud accusations often have a substantial paper trail accompanying them. Therefore, it is imperative that you find an attorney who is familiar with finding what can help your case and eliminating what can hurt it. At Spolin Law, we know how to increase the likelihood of a not guilty verdict, and we have a record to prove it. Call us at (310) 424-5816 to see how we can improve your chances of getting off.
Speak with a Welfare Fraud Attorney
Welfare is a need-based system. Those who are on welfare cannot afford to lose their benefits, and a welfare fraud charge puts those benefits in jeopardy. A conviction for this crime will not only result in you losing your benefits, it will also make it much more difficult to qualify for benefits in the future. On top of that, fines and jail time can set you back even further, making a difficult financial situation all the more desperate. When so much is on the line, it is important to find a defense attorney who knows how the system works and how these cases are tried. Attorney Aaron Spolin is a former prosecutor who now works to defend people from these kinds of accusations.
If you or someone you know is facing welfare fraud charges, contact Spolin Law at (310) 424-5816 to learn more about how an experienced welfare fraud defense attorney can help you through these troubled times.