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San Francisco Snap Violation Lawyers

What Happens If You Get a SNAP Violation Notice in San Francisco?

So, you own a grocery store or convenience store in San Francisco that accepts EBT payments from SNAP recipients. Everything is going smoothly, until one day you get a certified letter in the mail from the USDA. Your heart sinks as you realize it‘s a SNAP violation notice. What do you do?

First off, don’t panic. But, take a deep breath – this is a serious matter that requires your full attention. The notice likely alleges your store committed one or more violations of the complex rules governing the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly known as food stamps.The allegations could range from something relatively minor, like sloppy recordkeeping, to much more serious offenses like trafficking SNAP benefits (exchanging them for cash) or allowing SNAP funds to purchase prohibited items like alcohol or cigarettes.Whatever the claimed violation, you only have 10 calendar days to respond to the USDA’s charging letter. If you miss that tight deadline, your SNAP privileges could be permanently revoked without any right to appeal. In other words, your ability to accept EBT payments would be gone for good.So, what do you do if you get hit with one of these things? The smart move is to immediately consult an experienced SNAP violations attorney. At the Spodek Law Group, we’ve successfully defended over 300 SNAP violation cases nationwide for grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retailers.Our SNAP lawyers can quickly analyze the specific allegations, gather evidence to build a strong defense, and ensure you meet all deadlines for requesting a review or filing an appeal. We know how to navigate this legal minefield. And we‘re not afraid to forcefully advocate for our clients‘ rights against the USDA.

Understanding SNAP Violations and Penalties

Before we dive into the details of defending against alleged SNAP violations, it’s important to understand what exactly constitutes a violation and the potential penalties you could face.The SNAP program has strict requirements that retailers must follow in order to be approved for accepting EBT payments and to maintain that approval over time. Some of the biggest “no-no’s” include:

  • Trafficking SNAP benefits (exchanging them for cash or allowing purchase of non-food items)
  • Allowing purchase of prohibited items like alcohol, cigarettes, hot foods, etc.
  • Giving cash change for SNAP purchases over $1
  • Not properly maintaining inventory records and receipts
  • Submitting false information on the SNAP retailer application

If the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) determines a store has committed any program violation, it can impose severe sanctions like:

  • Temporary disqualification from SNAP for 6 months to 5 years
  • Permanent disqualification from SNAP (the “death penalty”)
  • Civil money penalties up to $100,000 per violation
  • Criminal charges for egregious fraud cases

As you can see, the stakes are extremely high, especially for smaller grocers or convenience stores that rely heavily on SNAP/EBT sales. A multi-year or permanent disqualification could potentially put some stores out of business.That’s why it’s absolutely critical to take any SNAP violation notice seriously and mount a vigorous legal defense with the help of an experienced attorney. Don‘t try to handle this on your own.

The SNAP Violation Process Explained

Now that we‘ve covered the basics of what constitutes a SNAP violation and the potential penalties, let‘s walk through the typical process that unfolds when the USDA alleges a retailer has broken the rules:

  1. Investigation and Charging Letter: FNS investigators will gather evidence if they suspect a SNAP violation has occurred. This could involve reviewing a store’s transaction records, conducting undercover compliance visits, or looking into complaints from SNAP recipients.

If the evidence appears to substantiate a violation, FNS will issue a charging letter to the retailer that details the specific allegations and cites the relevant SNAP regulations that were allegedly violated.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.
  1. Response Deadline: The charging letter will give the retailer just 10 calendar days to submit a written response and request for review. Missing this tight deadline means you lose your right to appeal and the USDA can immediately impose penalties.
  2. Review Process: If a timely response is submitted, the case will go through an administrative review process. An impartial Reviewing Official will examine the evidence from both sides and eventually issue a written determination on whether violations occurred and what penalties (if any) are warranted.
  3. Appeal Rights: If the Reviewing Official rules against the retailer, the next step is to file an Administrative Review appeal with the USDA’s Administrative Review Branch. This is a more formal legal proceeding with deadlines for submitting evidence and briefs.

An Administrative Review Officer will then issue a final agency decision after reviewing the case record. If the decision is still unfavorable, the last resort is to file an appeal in federal court.As you can see, the SNAP violation process involves multiple stages with strict deadlines. Having an experienced legal advocate on your side is crucial to protecting your rights and avoiding costly missteps.

Common SNAP Violation Defenses

When defending clients against alleged SNAP violations, our attorneys at Spodek Law Group utilize a variety of potential legal defenses and strategies depending on the specific circumstances. Some of the most common include:

Lack of Evidence: We carefully scrutinize all evidence the USDA claims to have against our client’s store. If the evidence is lacking, incomplete, or was obtained improperly, we‘ll forcefully argue the charges should be dismissed.

Employee Misconduct: In some cases, the root cause of a SNAP violation was the unauthorized actions of a rogue employee who wasn’t properly trained or deliberately broke the rules. We argue the store owner/operator shouldn‘t be held responsible if they had proper policies in place and the violation was an isolated incident.

Recordkeeping Errors: Retailers are required to maintain extensive transaction logs and inventory records related to SNAP purchases. Innocent mistakes in this paperwork can trigger violation allegations. We work to demonstrate any errors were unintentional and didn’t involve any actual program abuse.

Discriminatory Enforcement: We examine whether the USDA has been unfairly targeting certain retailers through its enforcement actions and compliance visit protocols. Unequal or selective enforcement could violate the store‘s constitutional rights.

Proportional Penalties: Even if a minor infraction occurred, we advocate for proportional penalties rather than the harsh sanctions the USDA often tries to impose. A small mistake shouldn’t put a store out of business.The key is to scrutinize every aspect of the USDA’s case and build the strongest possible defense strategy. Our SNAP violation lawyers have deep knowledge of the regulations and prior case precedents to leverage.

Why Hire a SNAP Violations Lawyer?

At this point, you may be wondering if you really need to hire a lawyer to deal with a SNAP violation notice, or if you can simply handle it yourself. Here are a few key reasons why having professional legal representation is absolutely essential:

Expertise and Experience: The SNAP regulations and policies are extremely complex, with many nuances and gray areas. Our attorneys have years of specialized experience dealing with these issues. We understand the process inside and out, while most store owners are in the dark.

Deadlines and Procedures: As mentioned, the SNAP violation process has very tight deadlines for responding, submitting evidence, and filing appeals. Miss just one deadline and your case is essentially over before it began. Our lawyers ensure you never miss a crucial filing.

Protecting Your Rights: The USDA investigators and officials involved aren‘t looking out for your rights – they’re focused on enforcing program rules. Having a lawyer levels the playing field and ensures you receive full due process protections.

Negotiating Fair Penalties: Even if a relatively minor violation did occur, our attorneys know how to negotiate with the USDA to pursue more reasonable penalties rather than excessive sanctions like multi-year disqualifications or six-figure fines.

Litigation If Needed: While most SNAP cases are resolved through the administrative process, some do end up in federal court if the USDA’s final decision is appealed. Our lawyers have extensive federal litigation experience to take the fight to court if necessary.The bottom line is that trying to defend a SNAP violation case on your own is extremely risky. You’ll be going up against experienced government lawyers who are incentivized to punish any violations harshly. Having a skilled legal advocate dramatically increases your odds of a favorable outcome.

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