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NY Penal Law § 158.30: Criminal Use of a Public Benefit Card in the Second Degree

July 4, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

New York law prohibits people from using another person’s public benefit identification documents to receive public assistance benefits. such as health coverage, SNAP food benefits, or other public assistance benefits. If you were to accept another person’s electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card as collateral for a loan, or in exchange for money, drugs or some other property or service, then you would have committed a crime. Pursuant to New York Penal Law section 158.30, you could be prosecuted on a charge of criminal use of a public benefit card in the second degree if you:

  1. Consciously lend money, property or furnish services and, in exchange, you accept a public benefit card as collateral for repayment of a loan or as the compensation for the property or service,
  2. Consciously accept a public benefit card in exchange for a perk, or
  3. Consciously bring a public benefit card to another person in exchange for funds, in exchange for any controlled substance, or for the purpose of committing an unlawful act.

Under New York Penal Law section 158.00(1)(a), a “public benefit card” is a medical assistance card, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or EBT card, public assistance card, or other identification document issued by the state or a social services district which entitles a person to receive public assistance benefits.

An Example

Neeka was broke.  She needed some cash right away to pay a bill. She asked to borrow money from some friends, but no one was able to lend anything to her. At last, she told Katrina that if Katrina would lend her $300, she would allow Katrina to keep her EBT card until she could pay Katrina back the money. Katrina agreed, and they completed their transaction. In this scenario, Katrina could face a charge of criminal use of a public benefit card in the second degree, because she accepted a Neeka’s public benefit card as collateral for a loan.

Offenses that are Related

Criminal use of a public benefit card in the first degree: New York Penal Law section 158.35

Criminal possession of a public benefit cards in the third degree: New York Penal Law section 158.40

Criminal possession of a public benefit cards in the second degree: New York Penal Law section 158.45

Criminal possession of a public benefit cards in the first degree: New York Penal Law section 158.50

Possible Defenses

The prosecutor’s task is to demonstrate that you got hold of the public benefit card in exchange for some sort of perk or asset. If, perhaps,  the card was granted to you as a “gift,” then you did not commit the crime of criminal use of a public benefit card in the second degree.

The Sentence

Since it is a class A misdemeanor, if you are convicted of criminal use of a public benefit card in the second degree, the judge may sentence you to a jail term of up to a year, a probation term of 3 years, and order you to pay a fine.

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