Public assistance programs run by the government, commonly referred to collectively as “welfare,” assist thousands of Utahns who fall upon hard times each year. These programs, such as SNAP food stamp benefits, Medicaid, and housing stipends, can provide vital lines of support for those who are most in need. However, some people try to take advantage of this system by filing false or misleading applications when they do not actual qualify for public assistance. Those who are caught committing this crime, or those who are falsely accused, can face serious penalties including jail time.
At Overson & Bugden, our Salt Lake City welfare fraud defense lawyers have years of experience working to get these types of charges downgraded or dismissed for our clients. We know that conviction for welfare fraud can threaten not only your liberty, but your present and future financial well-being. We will leave no stone unturned in fighting for you. For a free consultation, call us today at (801) 758-2287.
The Crime of Welfare Fraud in Salt Lake City
The code sections regarding the crime of welfare fraud contain multiple different iterations of the charge. What they all have in common is an intentional, knowing, or reckless gaming of the welfare system. The main type of welfare fraud that is charged involves an individual fabricating information on their application or other documents in order to obtain public assistance benefits to which they are not actually entitled. When applying for welfare, you are required to make a number of disclosures and keep this information updated, including marital status, household composition, employment, earned and unearned income, and receipt of monetary and in-kind gifts. False statements or intention misrepresentations can get your charged with this crime.
There are additional ways that you can be charged under these code sections, including if you use your SNAP benefits in ways or to purchase things that are not allowed under the law. As noted above, every time something you disclosed on your application, such as your address or income, changes, you must report this change to the state agency. If you fail to do so within ten days when you acquire income or resources in excess of the amount previously reported, you could be charged under the welfare fraud statute. Finally, providers can be charged if they bill the relevant agency for goods or services not actually provided to the client.
Penalties for Welfare Fraud in Salt Lake City
Aside from having to pay restitution in most cases, there are other criminal penalties you can face if convicted of this crime. How serious of a charge this offense is depends on the value of the payments, assistance, or other benefits received, misappropriated, claimed, or applied for. If the value is less than $500, the charge is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000. If the value is $500 or more but less than $1,500, the charge is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,500. If the value is $1,500 or more but less than $5,000, the charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. Finally, if the value is $5,000 or more, the charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Of course, other penalties can apply in many cases, and it is always best to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson & Bugden about the particulars of your case so we can advise you on all the possible consequences you might face. Outside of the fines and jail time, you could face difficulty getting a job in the future if you have a fraud conviction on your record, and you could lose or become ineligible for certain professional licenses. You could also become ineligible to apply for government benefits in the future, even when you actually qualify.
How a Welfare Fraud Case Works in Salt Lake City
After receiving a report of potential welfare fraud, police or some other state agency will investigate the matter. When the police believe enough evidence exists to arrest you, they will apply for a warrant. Once this warrant is granted, they will come to your home or place or work and arrest you. After your arrest, you will be taken to the local police station for the booking process, and held in a cell there or at the jail until your arraignment and bail hearing.
At the arraignment, your charges will be read to you and you will be asked by the judge to plead guilty or not guilty. An experienced arraignment attorney like those at Overson & Bugden will likely advise you to plead not guilty while we investigate the case. At the bail hearing, the judge will most likely set bail, but can sometimes hold you until the underlying matter is resolved. Our lawyers will fight to get you released quickly on minimal to no bail.
If you are interested in a plea deal, we can then begin negotiating with the prosecutor. If you have no prior criminal record, we will aim to convince them to allow you into a pre-trial diversion program, where your charges will be dropped if you complete it successfully. Otherwise, we can work to get the prosecutor to offer a downgraded charge or the promise to recommend a lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. If you do not wish to take a deal, we are always ready to fight for you at trial.
Call Our Salt Lake City Welfare Fraud Lawyers Today
Welfare fraud is taken seriously by the authorities and can result in life-altering penalties, such as long prison sentences, high fines, and the inability to get a job with a fraud conviction on your record. At Overson & Bugden, our experienced Salt Lake City welfare fraud attorneys understand how difficult being charged with a crime is, and we are here to answer all your questions and guide you through the process. We will fight with everything in our power to bring your case to a positive outcome. For a free consultation, call us today at (801) 758-2287.