If you are charged with welfare fraud, you can be charged at either the state or federal level, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, the amount of money that it is alleged you defrauded for, and in some cases, the prosecutor's preference. If you are charged with this crime, you are facing severe penalties including restitution, jail time and a criminal record that will follow you around for life. As such, it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you fight these charges. However, this may leave you wondering how an attorney can defend you. Here are a few of the ways welfare fraud cases can be defended.

Insufficient Evidence

Depending on the circumstances in your case, a criminal defense attorney may be able to argue that there simply is not enough evidence to prove that you committed welfare fraud. In order to show that you committed welfare fraud, the state or the federal government needs to be able to show certain elements. They need to be able to show that you were lying about something, such as your income or living situation. Unless they have tax records in hand or someone steps forward to say you are married and they were living with you and you were not claiming their income, there may simply not be enough evidence to try the case in court, and the judge will have no option but to dismiss the case.

No Intent to Defraud

Another common defense to welfare fraud is that you did not have the intent to defraud. Sometimes people make mistakes when filling out paperwork or forget to update their information. In these cases, there may end up being an over payment of benefits, but saying fraud was committed is a stretch. For example, if you received a raise at work and forget to report it right away, there may not be intent to defraud. You simply did not know or forgot. However, if you receive a form asking you to update your income information and knowingly put the old income amount so as to not reduce your payments, you have an intent to defraud.

Mistaken Identity

The last defense to welfare fraud is the mistaken or stolen identity defense. In order to hold you criminally liable for the welfare fraud, prosecutors must show it was you, and not someone else pretending to be you, who committed fraud. You do not always have to show identification to get welfare benefits and as such, people may steal identities to illegally obtain benefits. If the prosecutor has no evidence it was you who opened up the welfare case, it may be a case of mistaken identity.

A welfare fraud case can be tried as either a misdemeanor or felony in either a state or federal court. If you are charged with this crime, a criminal defense attorney can use various defenses to help you get the charges dismissed or be found not guilty. Contact an attorney as soon as you believe you will be charged with a crime or have been charged with a crime so they can begin working on your defense today.