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NY Penal Law § 158.40: Criminal Possession of Public Benefit Cards in the Third Degree

July 4, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

The New York criminal code covers several laws that are meant to penalize those who commit welfare fraud. Welfare fraud is a general term that speaks of the abuse of federal and state public assistance programs. In a number of cases, welfare fraud is carried out by giving false information on a public assistance application form, or by exchanging a public assistance card for drugs or money. In some other cases, it is conducted by the actual stealing of public benefit cards.  You could be prosecuted under New York Penal Law section 158.40 for criminal possession of public benefit cards in the third degree if, with the intention of defrauding, deceiving or injuring another individual, you consciously have in your possession five or more public benefit cards in the name or names of someone other than you.

Pursuant to 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.

For Example

Manuel is a notorious petty thief. He frequently picks people’s pockets to get their wallets and snatches ladies’ handbags on the streets. Through his theft activities, Manuel was able to accumulate multiple public assistance benefit cards. In this scenario, not only could Manuel be prosecuted on a larceny charge, he could also face prosecution for criminal possession of public benefit cards in the third degree.

Offenses that are Related

Criminal use of a public benefit card in the second degree: New York Penal Law section 158.30

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 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

In order to be charged with the violation of the criminal possession of public benefit cards in the third degree statute, you must have the intent to use them to commit fraud. If you can demonstrate to the court that your intent was not to defraud, then you may have a plausible defense against the charge.

The Sentence

Due to the fact that this crime is a class E felony offense, if you are convicted of criminal possession of public benefit cards in the third degree, the judge could sentence you to a prison term of up to 4 years, a probation term of 5 years, and order you to pay a fine.

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