Paying Back Welfare Benefits After Charges of Welfare Fraud

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“Thank you for your help! I will try to make this as short as possible. In 1999 my boyfriend and I split up. I was pregnant, and we did see each other occassionally. In or around 2000 he told the welfare agency that he was living with me the whole time, as I was getting aid for about four or five months. He told them that becouse he didn’t want to pay child support. To make this long story short, I was arrested for this twice, and charged in criminal court. After numerous delays, this was dropped after my boyfriend admitted lying to the public defender. Then about six months later I was charged in civil court without ever being served any papers. I never even knew until afterwards. Now I have to pay back $10,000, my check is being guarnished for $300.00 a month, and I only make minimem wage. Could this ever be waived in Oregon?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

In criminal court, the standard for conviction is “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is a much higher standard than in civil court. Depending on the case, the standard in civil court may only be that it is “more likely than not” that you did what you are accused of doing. (Some civil cases also require “clear and convincing” evidence.) So, it isn’t unusual for a case to go from criminal court with a not-guilty verdict to civil court where the standard is less.

In the Bill of Rights, we are all entitled to due process of law before we can have our life, liberty or property taken from us. Among other things, that means that we must be officially served with notice before the state can take our money. Often that means that papers are delivered to you by a sheriff or by certified mail. However, if you move or don’t accept the mail, there are alternatives. An ad can be run in the paper telling you (and the world) that you’re being sued, for example. All this is very complicated and a lawyer really needs to go back through the history to see if the rules were followed. It isn’t something that we can do in an on-line column.

Anyway, a lot of information seems to be missing here. For instance: how could you owe $10,000 if, as you say, he accused you of lying for only four or five months? Why are you just now raising these issues when you’ve apparently been paying for several years? What have you done about this in the past? Call your local legal aid office and ask them if they handle this sort of matter, many do. If not, call the state or county bar association for a referral to a lawyer who does. Often they charge as low as $25 for a consultation when referred from those sources.

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Author: House Attorney

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