Public Assistance Benefit Forgery
Throughout the 80s and 90s, the tough-on-crime government administrations left no stone unturned when they criminalized and severely punished more and more nonviolent criminal offenses. These tough on crime measures disproportionately affected minorities and did so purposefully, resulting in generations of black and brown people behind bars or otherwise embroiled in the criminal justice system. Florida has many crimes that target poor and marginalized people that result in imprisonment, probation and fines for nonviolent offenses. People end up in jail for driving on a suspended license, young people still get arrested for possession of marijuana, and the worlds oldest profession: prostitution carries exorbitant fines.
As more and more people are pushed closer to poverty thanks to growing income disparity and poverty, many more people are forced to rely on government welfare to survive. Not content with leaving even the most marginalized of our society alone, our state’s government has put together an aggressive investigatory arm to prosecute people suspected of unlawfully applying for and receiving public assistance like food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, and childcare. People charged with these crimes are often some of the hardest working, but poorest and most needy members of our society who are forced to choose between loosing needed support for their families or committing a crime. If you have been charged with a public assistance crime, you should contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal lawyer right away to learn what options you might have to defend your case.Public Assistance Benefit Forgery
People receiving public assistance from the government can also be victimized by other criminals and not just the government itself. Public assistance benefits in Florida are distributed in different manners depending on the benefit received. Those that receive food stamps might receive an electronic EBT card that can be used just like a debit card at the local grocery store. Medicaid recipients receive certificates of eligibility that act similarly to a medical insurance card. Other public assistance benefits are distributed in the form of vouchers. All of these public benefits have monetary values and can be traded in shady markets and even forged or stolen by unscrupulous characters. If you are the victim of public assistance forgery, you should contact a St. Petersburg criminal lawyer to protect you from prosecution and to seek justice against the perpetrator.
Public assistance benefit forgery is prohibited and punished under Florida Statute 414.39. Under the statute, it is illegal for any person to knowingly use, acquire, traffic, forge, or possess any food assistance ID card, certificate for medical services, or Medicaid identification card. Violation of this law constitutes a felony offense, the degree of which is determined by the amount of public assistance wrongfully obtained. If by the theft or forgery of public assistance benefits, you obtained a value between $200 and $20,000, you can be convicted of a third degree felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment. If the value obtained is between $20,000 and $100,000, the offense is a second degree felony punishable by a maximum of fifteen years. And if the value is greater than $100,000, you have committed a first degree felony punishable by up to thirty years in prison.
Fraud offenses like these might seem like they are easy to commit and difficult to detect, and so they are attractive crimes for those who believe themselves to be smarter than the State’s investigators. The reality is that the department of financial services of Florida has a team of specialized investigators whose sole objective is to comb through financial records and find people committing public assistance offenses.Talk to a Lawyer Today
Don’t try to go it alone, if you find out you are the subject of a criminal investigation, contact the skilled St. Petersburg criminal lawyers at Hanlon Law. We are available for consultations today at 727.897.5413.