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NY Penal Law § 158.50: Criminal Possession of Public Benefit Cards in the First Degree

July 4, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

If you have in your possession public benefit cards that are in another person’s name or in the names of several other people, you may have committed the crime of criminal possession of public benefit cards. There are 3 statutes in the New York criminal code that cover this offense. The particular charge that you could be looking at will be decided according to the number of cards that you illegally have in your possession. Criminal possession of public benefit cards in the first degree is the most egregious criminal possession of public benefit cards charge, and it carries the most severe penalty.  You could be prosecuted under New York Penal Law section 158.50 for criminal possession of public benefit cards in the first degree if, with intentions of defrauding, deceiving or injuring another individual, you knowingly retain 25 or more public benefit cards in the name (or names) of someone other than you.

According 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 

Jeremy knows exactly what day public benefit cards arrive in the mail every month.  On one such day, he waited for the mail carrier to show up. When he did, Jeremy wielded a gun in an effort to force the postal worker to give him his bag of mail. THrough this heist, Jeremy was able to bring over 100 public benefit cards into his possession. In this scenario, not only could Jeremy face prosecution for robbery, he could also be looking at a charge of criminal possession of public benefit cards in the first 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 in violation of the crime of criminal possession of public benefit cards in the first degree statute, you must have the intention of committing fraud, and you must have at least 25 public benefit cards in your possession. If you can demonstrate to the court that your intent was not to defraud or that you had less than 25 cards in your possession, then you might have a good defense against this charge.

The Sentence

Because this crime is a class C felony offense, if you are convicted of criminal possession of public benefit cards in the first degree, the judge could sentence you to a prison term of up to 15 years, a probation term of 5 years, and order you to pay a substantial fine.

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