Public Assistance Benefit Forgery
Welfare is one of the most controversial and hotly contested subjects in today’s political atmosphere. People on the left of the political spectrum typically argue that public assistance like food stamps and medicare are necessary in order to protect members of our society who would otherwise be unable to provide for their families. Critics on the right oppose the large government spending that welfare requires and argue that people should not be allowed to rely on the government to provide their income. Regardless of your political beliefs regarding the efficacy of public assistance, the reality is that it exists and Florida’s public assistance program is a robust one. Being a large government program, most of the administrative aspects, including recipient applications and distribution, is completed with online forms over a computer. Interaction with another person is often unnecessary for those applying for and receiving public assistance benefits.
This impersonal approach is ripe for abuse and leads to the commission of fraud by many people who would otherwise never even consider criminal activity. The ease for which public assistance benefits are applied for, however, leads to an inviting situation for potential criminals. There are several provisions within Florida’s public assistance laws that criminally punish certain actions. The most common is public assistance fraud, which prohibits the fraudulent application for benefits like food stamps and medicare. Less common, is the crime of public assistance benefit forgery. If you have been charged with any public assistance fraud offense, don’t wait to contact a dedicated Sarasota criminal defense lawyer to learn about your options.Elements of Public Assistance Benefit Forgery
Public assistance benefit forgery is a criminal offense prohibited under Florida Statute 414.39 subsection (2)(a). Under the law, the prosecution is burdened with proving certain elements beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. Under this law, it is a crime to use, transfer, acquire, forge, or possess an instrument of obtaining public assistance benefits. Instruments of public assistance benefits include flood assistance ID cards, EBT cards, medicaid or medicare ID cards, and certificates of eligibility. Public assistance benefit forgery is akin to tax fraud in that it preys not directly on the government public assistance program but instead on the recipients of that program. For example, a person who obtains the biographical information of a public assistance beneficiary and forges an identification card to siphon off that person’s benefits would be committing public assistance forgery. Anyone charged with public assistance benefit forgery should not hesitate to contact an experienced Sarasota criminal defense lawyer for aid.
The penalties for public assistance forgery are typically determined by the amount of money involved in the criminal enterprise. For example, if the value obtained as a result of the crime was less than $200, the offense is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by no more than one year in jail. If the value over a period of 12 months was between $200 and $20,000, then the offense is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years of imprisonment. If the value of the improperly obtained benefits exceeds $20,000 but is less than $100,000, the offense is a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years. And finally, if the value unlawfully obtained is greater than $100,000, the offense is a first degree felony punishable by up to thirty years in prison. Plainly, this crime can lead to potentially serious criminal penalties. If you are charged with public assistance benefit forgery, don’t hesitate to contact a skilled Sarasota criminal lawyer to build your defense.Speak to our Lawyers Today
The attorneys at Hanlon Law have the skills and experience to obtain the best results for your case. If you are in need of a dedicated team to assist you in your criminal case, don’t hesitate to contact us today for a consultation at 941.462.1789.