Well meaning people who find themselves on hard times often turn to the government for a hand up to help with household needs such as food for their children. The process is sometimes confusing as the person is asked about their income and expenses. Government assistance is based on need. An individual may not qualify if they make what the government deems to be too much.
In this process if a confused individual accidentally gives misinformation unintentionally and receives benefits that they did not qualify for, they may one day be facing theft charges. This is the common set of facts of cases files by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Public Assistance Fraud Division. The beneficiary of the benefits is charged with theft.
Theft is found in the Penal Code Section 31.03 and reads: A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property. The key here is did the beneficiary of the benefits intent to deprive the government of the property. Keep in mind these are the welfare queens that in the past been reported in the media driving around in Mercedes Benz. These are poor women trying to feed their children. They cannot use food stamps to buy beer, liquor or designer purses. The benefits are used to obtain basics like bread and milk.
A conviction for a felony theft will leave the defendant with the almost impossible task of finding a job with not only a theft but a felony. The person will become unemployable and a further burden on society rather than a productive taxpayer. This is plain and simple bad policy. The more appropriate action would be to have the money paid back and ban the person from receiving benefits. A theft conviction is not the answer.
If you or someone you know is in need of the services of a Houston Theft Attorney, call Houston Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.