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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 29803
Experience:  Criminal Justice Degree, JD with Criminal Law Concentration. Worked for the DA and U.S. Attorney.
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My sister is being accused of food stamp fraud in the state

Customer Question

My sister is being accused of food stamp fraud in the state of va. they are telling her if she does not pay back 2200 dollars by April they will prosacute her and put her in jail.She was unaware that she was comitting a felony and doesn't know what to do can she fight this case or as there is no way for her to get up the 2200 dollars by then will they not give her a longer time to pay it?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 5 years ago.

My name is Lucy and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

She can fight the case, if she has a defense to the action. Ignorance of the law will not help her, but they do have to show that she intended to defraud the government, and they may not be able to do that, depending on the facts. If she's willing to plead guilty, she can try to negotiate a lesser offense, such as theft instead of fraud, or something like that. In that case, she might be able to do probation instead of jail, and do monthly payments until the amount is repaid in full. The DA has a lot of discretion in arranging a plea bargain.

There's no way to fight them reporting her to the DA for prosecution, unfortunately. She can keep trying to work with them, or see if they'll accept monthly payments, but, if they are determined to hand it over, she can't stop them. The DA will send her a notice explaining the charges against her and giving her a court date. When she goes to court, she can plead not guilty and request a trial. The judge will appoint a public defender to represent her at no cost, if she cannot afford a lawyer. The public defender will see if there is any way to avoid jail time. If this is her first offense, she may not end up going to jail.

Good luck.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I had that answer but was hopeing there was more to it.Is there no way she can do this with out going to court?


Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
The only way to avoid going to court is to pay the money back before they file charges. The best option for her is probably to see if there is any possible way to do that - even if it means borrowing money. The state can set the arrangements and the deadlines, because they have the power here. She is absolutely free to keep trying to work something out with them, but there's no sure-fire way to avoid court if she doesn't have the ability to pay.

The unfortunate reality is that, if someone else really wants to file a police report against you, there's no way to stop them. Once the report is filed, there's no way to stop the DA from going forward if that's what the DA wants to do. I'm sorry.