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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 17122
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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I was accused of food stamp fraud in the amount of $3788. My

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I was accused of food stamp fraud in the amount of $3788. My case was taken to the District Attorneys office but has not been assigned to a court yet. What happens next and what are the penalties I could be facing. I have no other criminal convictions.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Food Stamp Fraud would be a feony in Texas, the range of punishment for which is from 6 months to two years in a state jail and a fine up to $10,000. That said, however, it is a non-violent offense and what the state will want more than seeing a first offender locked up on these charges is to get money back.

Now that criminal charges have been filed against you, it's too late to avoid court. The only one who can make this case go away is a judge, either because of dismissal, plea and sentencing, or trial and verdict. As the DA is prosecuting your case, going to the DAs office for help is not advisable. You're a defendant and anything you say can be used against you. You may or may not have deliberately committed a fraud, and you should only share everything related to this offense with a criminal lawyer who will represent you, so he'll best be able to serve your needs.

On your first date in court, you will be arraigned on the charges (they will be formally read into the court record) and you will be asked how you plead. It is customary to enter an initial plea of "Not Guilty." You can always take that back later on if there's a good reason to do it -- like a plea you want to take -- but until then a not guilty plea is the only way you will keep all of your rights and choices open to you. Once you admit anything on the record in court, it's difficult or impossible to make that go completely away.

If you can afford an attorney, you should have him with you at your arraignment, because there may be an offer available to you, and you will have to be in a position to make an informed decision. Your lawyer can confer with you about the case, look at the accusatory papers in the court and talk to the DA to get an over all picture of how strong the State's case against you may be. Basically, you will only have two choices open to you: fighting the case and moving it in the direction of hearings and trials; or, taking a plea. Your lawyer can give you the up and down sides of both courses so you can make your choices and be knowledgeable about possible consequences.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can ask the court to appoint you a public defender. If the judge agrees that you are indigent and that it would be too much of a hardship for you to be able to pay a lawyer, you'll get a free one.

It is pretty typical for a first offender on a fraud case to get a non-jail plea offer. You would probably be looking at no worse than probation. One of the conditions of probation will be to make restitution and to pay back the money. There may be other conditions as well, such as classes or community service. You would be expected to comply with them. There is also a form of probation called deferred adjudication. What's good about that, if it's offered to you, is that if you complete probation successfully, you can eventually apply to seal the record so that you don't have a criminal convicition to carry around with you for the rest of your life.
Of course, if you violate probation, you would risk being resentenced to jail.

________

If I've helped, please click the green Accept button so I can get credit for my work.

This thread will not close and you can always use it to get clarification.This is informational only and is NOT legal advice.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
How long does it usually take to set up a court date? When do I ask for a public defender?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Generally, you can ask for a public defender on your first court date. However, different states and, for that matter different jurisdictions within states, have differing procedures and eligibility requirements for public defenders. You can always give the local public defender's office a call and find out how your specific court works when it comes to assigning free counsel. You may be able to get something in place before the court date.

How long it will take to set up a court date is going to depend on the DA. At this point, the DA's job is investigating the case to learn what it's all about and how/if to proceed. They can take their time if they need to before charging you. The statute of limitations is 7 years. So get on with your life in the meantime and stay of trouble.

________

If I've helped, please click the green Accept button so I can get credit for my work.

This thread will not close and you can always use it to get clarification.This is informational only and is NOT legal advice.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
What usually happens on the first day of court? Will I need an attorney with me then? Will I be arrested and "booked"?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Your first date in court will be your arraignment. I've already talked about that in my first posting.

Any arrest will precede the court date. It may just come in the form of a summons. With a first arrest on a non-violent matter, it's very unlikely that you'll do any jail time.

Do you know for sure that you will be arrested, or have you just been told that you're under supicion of food stamp fraud and the DA is looking into it
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I was just told by the food stamp investigator that I am accused of food stamp fraud and the case was sent to the DA's office. He's the one that told me that maybe I could pay off what I owe without going to court.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Okay. Now I see why you went to the DA.

I don't know whether you intentionally committed fraud or not. And I don't want you to tell me as there's no attorney/client privilege between us and no confidentiality on a site like this. If you don't believe you did anything wrong, you should not try to arrange to pay anything. Maybe you don't owe the money, and maybe the DA won't bring charges.

If, on the other hand, you know that you did collect more than you were entitled to, if you can't afford a lawyer you should talk to the public defender's and see whether they can talk to the DA on your behalf and keep this out of court. I don't think the DA will let you do that as they wouldn't talk to you to begin with, but there's no harm in having a lawyer try on your behalf.

________

If I've helped, please click the green Accept button so I can get credit for my work.

This thread will not close and you can always use it to get clarification.This is informational only and is NOT legal advice.
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 17122
Experience: Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.