New York Possession and Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card

Welfare Fraud is a very prevalent crime nationwide. In New York, wrongfully obtaining benefits is a frequently prosecuted welfare fraud. Additionally, Criminal Possession and Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card are charges that are taken seriously by the prosecutors.

What is a Public Benefit Card Under New York Law?

The definition of what is a “public benefit card” comes from Article 158 of the New York Penal Law. Under Article 158, a public benefit card is any authorization card issued by the government, which entitles a person to receive a public benefit from local, state or government programs.

Examples of Public Benefits

Under New York Penal Law, the following are examples of public benefit cards:

  • Medicare or Medicaid cards;
  • Food Stamps Assistance (commonly called “SNAP” for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
  • Public/Cash assistance;
  • Home Energy Assistance Program (commonly called “HEAP”)
  • Social Security Disability Benefits

Both unlawful use and unlawful possession of a public benefit card are crimes under New York Criminal law. The following are New York charges associates with Criminal Use and Criminal Possession of Public Benefit Cards:

Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card Charges

New York Criminal Use of Public Benefit Card Charges apply to unlawful possession, transfer, delivery or acquisition of a public benefit card. There are two degrees of Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card – First Degree and Second Degree. The difference between these charges is explained below.

Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree

Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree is codified in New York Penal Law Section 158.30. This crime has the following elements:

  1. Knowingly,
  2. Loans money or property and accepts a public benefit card as a collateral, OR
  3. Obtains a public benefit card in exchange for a benefit, OR
  4. Transfers or delivers a public benefit card to another in exchange for money or a drugs or for the purpose of committing an unlawful act.

Penalties and Sentencing for Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card

Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree is a Class A misdemeanor. As such, this charge is punishable by up to 1 year in prison. However, sentences of time served, conditional discharge, unconditional discharge and probation are all authorized sentences for this charge.

Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree

Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree under New York Penal Law 158.35, is a more serious charge than Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree. The elements of this charge are:

  1. Pursuant to an act or series of acts,
  2. Knowingly
  3. Obtains 3 or more public benefit cards from others, OR
  4. Transfers or delivers 3 or more benefit cards to another in exchange for money or drugs.

Penalties and Sentencing for Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree

Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree is a Class “E” Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison. However, sentences of probation, conditional discharge, unconditional discharge or a determinate sentence of a year or less, are all possible sentences for this New York Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card charge.

Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card

The New York charge of Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card applies to situations where individuals possess public benefit cards, which are in someone else’s name and do so with the intent to deceive, defraud or injure another. There are three degrees of Criminal Possession of a Benefit Card in New York – ranging from first degree (most serious) to third degree (least serious). The difference in these charges is explained below.

Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the Third Degree

The least serious Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card is the commission of this charge in the third degree. Under New York Penal Law 158.40, a person is guilty of this charge when:

  1. With intent to defraud, deceive, or injury another,
  2. Knowingly possesses five or more public benefit cards,
  3. In names other than the person’s own name.

Penalties and Sentencing for Criminal Possession of Public Benefit Cards in the Third Degree

Criminal Possession of Public Benefit Cards in the Third Degree is a Class “E” Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison. However, sentences of conditional discharge, unconditional discharge, probation and determinate sentences of 1 year jail or less are all permissible sentences for this charge.

Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree

Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree is very similar to the charge of Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the Third Degree. However, this charge requires possession of 10 or more public benefit cards. Rather than 5 required for the Third Degree charge. The elements of Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree under Penal Law 158.45 are:

  1. With intent to defraud, deceive or injury another,
  2. Knowingly
  3. Possesses ten or more public benefit cards in the name(s) other than the person’s own name.

Penalties and Sentencing for Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree

Criminal Possession of Public Benefit Cards in the Second Degree is a Class “D” Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison. However, sentences involving probation or a conditional discharge, or a determinate jail term of 1 year or less are all authorized sentences for this charge.

Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree

Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree under NY Penal Law Section 158.50, is similar to the other Criminal Possession of Public Benefit Cards. However, this charge requires possession of 25 or more public benefit cards in the name(s) other than the person’s own name. Specifically, the elements of this charge are:

  1. With intent to defraud, deceive or injury another,
  2. Knowingly
  3. Possesses twenty five or more public benefit cards in the name(s) other than the person’s own name.

Penalties and Sentencing for Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree

Criminal Possession of Public Benefit Cards in the First Degree is a Class “C” Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by up to 5 to 15 years in prison. However, if there are mitigating circumstances, a probation sentence may be imposed on this charge.

Statute of Limitations for Public Benefit Card Charges

The Statutes of Limitations, or the time the prosecutor has to bring criminal charges against you on these Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card charges are:

New York Criminal ChargeStatute of Limitations
Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree5 years
Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree2 years
Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree5 years
Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree5 years
Criminal Possession of a Public Benefit Card in the First Degree5 years
Criminal Possession and Use of Public Benefit Card Charges Statute of Limitations

Example of Statute of Limitations Calculations:

Importantly, the statute of limitations does not start running until the offense is complete. So let’s say you unlawfully use a public benefit card on January 1. Then you continue using the card unlawfully through March 1. The statute of limitations on the January 1 charge does not start to run until March 1 because this is a continuous offense.

Agencies Investigating Public Benefit Card Fraud

Several agencies are charged with investigating Public Benefit Card Fraud. These are some examples of agencies that investigate and prosecute these charges:

  • District Attorney’s Offices
  • New York State Office of Temporary an Disability Assistance
  • The Investigation, Revenue and Enforcement Administration (IREA)
  • New York State Office of the Welfare Inspector General
  • New York State Attorney General’s Office
  • New York State Police
  • New York City Police Department
  • New York State Troopers

Contact Top Rated New York Criminal Defense Attorneys

Public Benefit Card Fraud cases can turn into a felony record, significant jail time and a civil judgment against you for the wrongfully obtained benefits. If you or a loved one have been arrested or are under investigation for Public Benefit Card Fraud, you need experienced attorneys by your side to fight your case. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.