Florida Unemployment Fraud Defense 101

In Florida, unemployment fraud is a serious charge that can lead to severe criminal penalties. Unemployment fraud involves intentionally providing false information or withholding information to receive unemployment benefits to which you are not entitled.  


Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa have extensive experience defending clients who are facing allegations of fraud, including unemployment fraud. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can usually achieve a favorable result in unemployment fraud cases if contacted immediately after the person learns of the state’s investigation. While every case is different, engaging an experienced criminal defense lawyer as early as possible can result in a more favorable resolution of the case.  


If you are under investigation or charged with unemployment fraud in Florida, contact Stechschulte Nell today. 

Understanding Unemployment Fraud in Florida 


In Florida, unemployment benefits are intended to provide temporary financial assistance to people who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who meet certain eligibility requirements. Unemployment fraud can be committed in several ways, such as misreporting earned income, failing to report new employment while receiving benefits, or using someone else’s identity to claim benefits. 


In many cases, individuals who find themselves charged with unemployment fraud begin to receive unemployment benefits legally after filing a valid claim. In time, they may start a new job, even working only part-time. Unemployment benefits can continue during this period, while at a reduced amount, depending on the specific sums involved. Then, as the defendant picks up more hours at work, they fail to notify the state that their earnings disqualify them from continuing to receive benefits.  


Of course, in other cases, someone may file a baseless claim for unemployment benefits, either under their own or someone else’s name. These cases are usually prosecuted more forcefully by the state.  


Penalties for Unemployment Fraud in Florida 


The penalties for unemployment fraud in Florida can be severe, including imprisonment, repayment of fraudulently obtained benefits, and fines. The severity of the penalties will correspond to the amount of benefits wrongfully received and the specific facts of the case. 


Conviction of unemployment fraud in Florida is punishable under F.S. §443.071 as a third-degree felony and carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in state prison, a $5,000 fine, probation, and restitution of the funds received illegally. Note that each false statement is a separate offense. That means every time someone knowingly submits a false certification of a material fact for unemployment benefits, they may have committed a separate crime.  


If someone receives $10,000 or more in fraudulent unemployment benefits, that fact elevates the offense to an aggravated felony, stepping up the potential penalty to a second-degree felony, 15 years in prison, a $15,000 fine, restitution, and probation. Unnaturalized individuals may also be deported if convicted. 


Defenses Against Charges of Unemployment Fraud 


Experienced unemployment fraud defense lawyers can effectively defend against these charges in Florida. The determination of which defense strategy is most appropriate in any individual case depends on the circumstances involved. These are some of the most successful defenses: 


No Intent to Defraud 


One of the primary defenses against unemployment fraud charges is the lack of intent to defraud. Fraud charges require the government to prove the accused knowingly engaged in deceptive practices to gain benefits unlawfully. Skilled defense lawyers will work to demonstrate that any misrepresentations were due to misunderstanding, error, or negligence rather than a deliberate intent to deceive. This might involve proving that incorrect information provided on an application was the result of a genuine mistake or confusion about the accused’s eligibility requirements. 


Incorrect Accusations 


There are cases in which an individual is wrongfully accused of unemployment fraud because of administrative errors or misunderstandings. A defense can be built around proving the accuracy of the claimant’s reported information or disputing the allegations based on factual inaccuracies in the charge itself. This might involve providing documentation or evidence that substantiates the claimant’s eligibility or counters the specific facts alleged of the state’s charging documents. 


Insufficient Evidence 


The prosecution must prove every element of unemployment fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. The best criminal defense lawyers for Florida unemployment fraud closely examine the prosecution’s evidence to identify gaps or weaknesses that fail to conclusively show fraudulent intent or actions. Ben Stechschulte is board-certified in criminal law, putting him among only 2% of Florida’s licensed attorneys. This board certification is a testament to his commitment to delivering the highest quality criminal defense representation in Florida. 


Repayment Prior to Discovery 


In situations where an individual realizes they have mistakenly received benefits to which they were not entitled and takes proactive steps to repay those benefits before an investigation or accusation of fraud is filed, this early acknowledgment of the benefits overpayment is a powerful fact your defense lawyer can use to diminish the state’s interest in prosecuting. While this does not necessarily absolve the individual of wrongdoing, it can significantly mitigate the penalties and demonstrate a lack of intent to commit fraud. 


Successfully defending against unemployment fraud charges requires a thorough understanding of the legal system, meticulous preparation, and the assistance of a professional fraud defense lawyer experienced in such cases.  


Read More > Defending Against Fraud Charges in Florida  


Work with Experienced Florida Unemployment Fraud Defense Lawyers 


Facing charges of unemployment fraud in Florida can have serious consequences that may impact the rest of someone’s life unless they hire a criminal defense lawyer who understands the nuances of Florida fraud law. With a comprehensive knowledge of the defenses available and how to effectively employ them can make a significant difference in the outcome of a case, our skilled defense lawyers can make the difference between resolving the case with no criminal conviction or suffering a severe sentence.  


Whether the accusations stem from honest mistakes, administrative errors, or lack of intent to commit fraud, it is crucial to approach the situation with a well-designed defense strategy. By meticulously examining the prosecution’s evidence, challenging the prosecution’s assertions, and demonstrating the absence of fraudulent intent, individuals accused of unemployment fraud in Florida can achieve a favorable resolution of their case. 


Accused of fraud? Contact Stechschulte Nell Law for a case review today in Tampa, Orlando, or Miami at 813-280-1244.  

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