Welfare fraud in the fifth degree: NY Penal Law § 158.05

by ECL Writer
Welfare fraud in the first degree

When contemplating the offense of theft, many people tend to associate it with grand larceny, shoplifting, and robbery. However, another form of theft is welfare fraud, which involves illicitly taking from government resources. For instance, if you submit a deceitful application for welfare benefits and receive them, you have committed welfare fraud. In New York, there are five degrees of welfare fraud offenses, and the specific charge you may face hinges on the amount of public assistance benefits you are accused of misappropriating.

Welfare fraud in the fifth degree is the mildest charge under New York Penal Law section 158.05. You are deemed to have committed welfare fraud in the fifth degree if you receive public benefits through fraudulent means, which encompass:

  • Submitting an application for a public benefit card with knowledge that it contains false information.
  • Impersonating another individual to gain access to public assistance benefits.
  • Making false statements to establish, maintain eligibility for, increase, or prevent the reduction of public assistance benefits.

In the context of the welfare fraud statute, “public assistance benefits” refer to monetary funds, property, or services provided by the federal, state, or local government and administered by the Department of Social Services or Social Services Districts.


Being a class A misdemeanor, a conviction for welfare fraud in the fifth degree may result in a maximum jail sentence of one year, a probationary period lasting three years, and financial penalties. Additionally, you will be obligated to reimburse the unlawfully obtained funds.


If you unintentionally furnished incorrect details on a public assistance application, you might have a legitimate defense against a welfare fraud accusation. Likewise, if you made a false statement concerning a matter that was not significant, pursuing a welfare fraud charge would not be warranted.

New York Penal Law § 158.05: Welfare fraud in the fifth degree

A person is guilty of welfare fraud in the fifth degree when he or she commits a fraudulent welfare act and thereby takes or obtains public assistance benefits.

Related Offenses

Hiring a New York Lawyer for welfare fraud in the fifth degree case

When facing welfare fraud in the fifth degree case in New York, hiring a knowledgeable lawyer is paramount. These charges can lead to serious consequences, including fines, probation, and even incarceration. A skilled New York attorney will provide crucial guidance throughout the legal process, ensuring your rights are protected.

First, the lawyer will assess the evidence against you, scrutinizing every detail to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. They’ll help you understand your legal options and work towards the best possible outcome, whether it’s negotiating a plea deal or defending you in court.

With a New York lawyer by your side, you’ll have a strong advocate to navigate the complexities of welfare fraud cases and strive for a favorable resolution.

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