120. Can I go to jail? Will I have a criminal record?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

If BSI decides that you committed SNAP fraud and that the overpayment was not just a mistake, BSI may decide to refer your case to a prosecutor1. If you get notice of a criminal complaint, you should plead “not guilty” and ask the court to appoint a lawyer for you. Legal services programs do not represent people in criminal matters but they may help you and your lawyer figure out whether BSI and DTA have followed all the rules, including if they have correctly computed what you owe.

If you plead guilty or you are found guilty, you will probably not have to go to jail, but the criminal record may make it harder for you to get a job, get credit, or get housing. A criminal record may also cause immigration problems. You may have to pay back the money the court decides you owe. Sometimes the court will delay a final decision as long as you pay back the money according to the schedule set by the court. This is called
“continued without a finding.” Be careful not to agree to a repayment schedule you will not be able to keep.

The federal SNAP rules permit you to ask the court to let you pay back the money through public service2. If you pay the money back or pay the claim through public service, you may be able to get the case dismissed so you don’t have a criminal record.

If the court finds that you committed an IPV, your benefits can be stopped under the SNAP IPV disqualification rules. See can DTA suspend or stop your SNAP benefits if you committed an IPV or fraud 3,4.

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