If you are charged with Welfare Fraud in Livonia, Michigan, you need the help of an experienced Livonia criminal defense attorney. I can provide you with nearly 20 years of experience and a willingness to fight and take cases to trial.
Welfare Fraud over $500 by Failure to Inform is a class H felony that carries up to 4 years in prison (48 months). If you are arrested and charged with Welfare Fraud, your first court appearance will be an arraignment in the 16th District Court in Livonia, Michigan. Learn more about an arraignment now. At the arraignment, your case will be scheduled for a probable cause conference and a preliminary examination. Bond will also be addressed at the arraignment. The probable cause conference must be scheduled within 7 to 14 days of the arraignment with the preliminary examination scheduled within 5 to 7 days after the probable cause conference.
Following the preliminary examination, further proceedings are held in the Wayne County Circuit Court at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in downtown Detroit. If there is virtually any evidence supporting the prosecutor's case, it is extremely likely that the matter will be bound over in the district court. Nonetheless, I almost always challenge cases at the preliminary examination because it is the best opportunity that the defense is presented for challenging the evidence and developing the facts that will support defenses in the circuit court. DO NOT WAIVE THE PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION WITHOUT MAKING AN INFORMED DECISION.
The charge of Welfare Fraud is detailed in the Michigan compiled laws, MCL 400.60(2). The provisions of MCL 400.60(2) state:
(1) Any person who by means of willful false statement or representation, by impersonation or other fraudulent device, or by using an access device obtains or attempts to obtain, or aids or abets any person to obtain or attempt to obtain, (a) assistance or relief to which the person is not entitled; or (b) a larger amount of assistance or relief than that to which the person is justly entitled; or any officer or employee of a county, city, or district family independence agency who authorizes or recommends relief to persons known to the officer or employee to be ineligible or to have fraudulently created their eligibility; or any person who knowingly buys or aids or abets in buying or in disposal of the property of a person receiving assistance or relief without the consent of the director or supervisor of the state department shall, if the amount involved shall be of the value of $500.00 or less, be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall, if the amount involved shall be of the value of more than $500.00, be deemed guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be punished as provided by the laws of this state. The amount involved as used in this subsection shall be defined as the difference between the lawful amount of assistance or aid and the amount of assistance or aid actually received. If anyone receives assistance or relief through means enumerated in this section, in which prosecution is deemed unnecessary, the state department or county departments may take the necessary steps to recover from the recipient the amount involved, plus interest at 5% per annum. On conviction of the violation of the provisions of this section of any officer or employee of any county, city, or district department of social welfare, the officer or employee shall be removed or dismissed from office. For the purpose of this subsection, access device means that term as it is defined in section 300a of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.300a.
(2) There is imposed upon every person receiving relief under this act either upon the person's own application or by the person's inclusion, to his or her knowledge, in the application of another the continuing obligation to supply to the department issuing the relief: (a) the complete circumstances in regard to the person's income from employment or from any other source or the existence of income, if known to the person, of other persons receiving relief through the same application; (b) information regarding each and every offer of employment for the person or, if known to him or her, of the other persons receiving relief through the same application; (c) information concerning changes in the person's circumstances or those of other persons receiving relief through the same application which would decrease the need for relief; and (d) the circumstances or whereabouts, known to the person, of relatives legally responsible for the person's support or for the support of other persons receiving relief through the same application if changes in those circumstances or whereabouts could affect the amount of assistance available from those relatives or affect their legal liability to furnish support. Any person who shall neglect or refuse to submit to the department issuing relief the information required by this section, if the amount of relief granted as a result of the neglect or refusal is less than $500.00, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and if the amount of relief granted as a result of the neglect or refusal is $500.00 or more, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction shall be punished as provided by the laws of this state.
Welfare Fraud under Michigan sentencing guidelines is scored under crimes against property (Property). Under the guidelines, a person who is convicted of Welfare Fraud over $500 by Failure to Inform with no prior record and no aggravating factors looks to the low end of the guidelines which call for up to 1 months. With no prior criminal record but horrible facts, the defendant can face 6 months. With a terrible criminal record and terrible facts, the accused can be looking at 17* months under the guidelines.
The jury instructions set forth the following elements for Welfare Fraud over $500 by Failure to Inform that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecuting attorney:
M Crim JI 34.3 Refusal or Neglect to Provide Information to Welfare Department
(1) The defendant is charged with the crime of [refusing / neglecting] to provide certain information to the [identify appropriate agency]. To prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
(2) First, that the defendant was receiving public assistance benefits.
(3) Second, that the defendant [personally applied for those benefits / knew that (he / she) was included in another person's application].
(4) Third, that the defendant [refused / neglected] to provide certain information to the [identify agency]. [To refuse means to intentionally not do an act. To neglect means to carelessly fail to do an act.]
(5) Fourth, that the unreported information was information that the defendant had a duty to continue to provide to the welfare department. In this case, it is charged that the defendant [refused / neglected] to report
[Choose appropriate subsections:]
(a) the complete circumstances of income from employment or any other source;
(b) the existence of income, if the defendant knew about it, of other people who were receiving benefits through the same application;
(c) information about every job offer the defendant received;
(d) information about every job offer other people who were receiving benefits through the same application received;
(e) information about changes in the defendant's circumstances;
(f) information about changes in the circumstances of other people who were receiving benefits through the same application;
(g) the circumstances or whereabouts, if the defendant knew them, of relatives who were legally responsible for [his / her] support or the support of other people who were receiving benefits through the same application, if changes in the circumstances could affect the amount of assistance available from those relatives or their legal ability to pay support.
(6) Fifth, that the defendant knew that [he / she] had a duty to provide the information.
[Use (7) for felonies:]
(7) Sixth, that the amount of public assistance benefits received as a result of the [refusal / neglect] to provide information was more than $500.
[Use (8) for misdemeanors:]
(8) Sixth, that the amount of public assistance benefits received as a result of the [refusal / neglect] to provide information was $500 or less.
(9) To determine how much was received as a result of the [refusal / neglect] to provide information, you must subtract the amount the defendant was entitled to receive from the amount [he / she] actually received.
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to focus on the jury instructions while preparing a defense to the offense of Welfare Fraud. While there are a number of defenses to Welfare Fraud over $500 by Failure to Inform that we can explore during a consultation, the elements contained in M Crim JI 34.3 provide a roadmap for defending the case. This is true in almost every single case, and really great defense attorneys focus early on these jury instructions.
As a cautionary note, you might be completely innocent but still face criminal charges. Even worse, you might be denied bail, forced to spend months in jail before you are vindicated. I have seen many cases where a truly innocent client is baffled, angry and scared, completely unable to understand why police and prosecutors are gunning to get a conviction. So long as probable cause is established at the preliminary examination, then the matter will be bound over for trial in the 3rd Circuit Court for the County of Wayne and further proceedings will be held in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in downtown Detroit. This is why it is so important that you contact an experienced Livonia criminal defense attorney to help you defend against criminal charges in the 16th District Court.
*represents an aberration under the guidelines that might result in county jail time or violate the 2/3rd maximum minimum rules under the guidelines, which is something that must be discussed with your attorney.