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Welfare Fraud Law & Defense

WI 10980 Crimes

Information on the crime of welfare fraud, also called obtain public aid by misrepresentation, is found at California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980.


Note: There are several variations of welfare fraud crimes that may be charged depending on the particular set of facts that support the allegations. For example, WI 10980(c)(1) is charged where the dollar amount of the fraud is less than $950, whereas WI 10980(c)(2) is charged where the dollar amount of the fraud is more than $950, and so on. The different welfare fraud charges carry different punishment. If convicted.

WI 10980 Law

In general, it is a crime to knowingly misrepresent your factual financial status or worth in order to receive welfare benefits. Most welfare fraud cases involve intentional misrepresentations or omissions of income or financial need on public forms that are signed under penalty of perjury, or failure to update any change in income or financial need after welfare benefits have been established.


Note: The crime of perjury (PC 118) is commonly charged along with most WI 10980 charges.

It is not uncommon to have multiple counts (allegations) of welfare fraud and perjury charges against a single defendant because every time the defendant signs a welfare form document with having knowledge of the false information is separate offense of welfare fraud and perjury.

Welfare fraud include knowingly and falsely representing information to obtain health care, public aid, WIC, food stamps, etc.



Jail Sentence: Welfare fraud charges are classified as either a felony or as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of felony welfare fraud the defendant could face up to three (3) years in jail. If found guilty of misdemeanor welfare fraud the defendant could face up to one (1) year in the county jail.

Probation Sentence: In some cases it may be possible to reduce a welfare fraud charge to a lighter criminal charge such as from a felony to a misdemeanor. In other cases it may even be possible to have the criminal charges dismissed depending on the circumstances of the case. For cases where a reduction or dismissal of the welfare charges are not possible it may still be possible to obtain a probation sentence. A probation sentence may be accompanied with some jail time, but generally any jail sentence that is made a part of a probation sentence is served by work release or electronic monitoring (house arrest) in WI 10980 cases. Probation sentences may be informal (no probation officer) or formal (with a probation officer). Whether or not a probation sentence is available in any welfare fraud or perjury case depends largely on the defendant's criminal history along with the sophistication level of the fraud.

PC 1107(h) Sentencing: If the defendant is convicted of welfare fraud pursuant to WI 10980(c)(1) or 10980(c)(2), and he or she is not granted a probation sentence, then the defendant will be sentenced to jail (as opposed to a state prison); however, any jail sentence related to WI 10980(c)(1) or 10980(c)(2) may be split (served partially out of jail on work release) or suspended (not served at all unless the defendant violates a term of his or her out of jail sentence). Whether or not the defendant has his or her jail sentence split or suspended depends on several factors.

Note: WI 10980 (Welfare Fraud) and PC 118 (Perjury) are not considered strikes under California's Three Strikes Sentences Law. Also, Welfare fraud and perjury charges are not considered violent or serious crimes as those terms are defined in California law. This means that if the defendant is convicted of either welfare fraud (WI 10980) or perjury (PC 118) he or she may earn up to fifty (50%) credit of any jail sentence if he or she is on his or her good behavior while in custody.

CIMT: Welfare fraud is considered a crime involving moral turpitude, which means the crime involves deceit o is otherwise inherently wrong. Arrests and convictions for CIMT can have collateral consequences for non United States citizens and licensed professionals. Non US citizens may be deported for convictions of CIMT and licensed professionals can lose a license to practice in a particular profession (i.e. lawyer, doctor, dentist, therapist, etc.).

In addition to any prison or jail punishment, if found guilty of welfare fraud, the defendant may face additional penalties, including: Firearm prohibition (for felony WI 10980 convictions), Restitution of the funds defrauded, loss of professional or occupation license (for doctors, dentist, lawyers, nurses, or anyone with a license issued by a California Commission, Board, or Bar), loss of immigration status (for non-U.S. citizens), penalty fines and fees, enhanced penalties for future violations, and more.

Note: If the defendant is convicted of welfare fraud he or she can lose future welfare benefits.


Common defenses to welfare fraud (WI 10980) and perjury (PC 118) include: insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant knowingly included false information on welfare forms (or omitted information), mistake of facts as to the information that was provided to the welfare department, duress, necessity, statute of limitations (very limited in fraud cases), intoxication, insanity, lack of jurisdiction, and more.

If you or a loved one has been charged with welfare fraud, perjury, or illegally obtained public aid, or WI 10980(c)(1), 10980(c)(2), and more, contact our criminal defense attorneys today. There is no fee for initial in-office consultations. Call today!


Related Crimes

  • WI 10980(a) Obtain public aid by misrepresentation

  • WI 10980(c)(1) Unlawfully obtain public aid in amount less than $950

  • WI 10980(c)(2) Unlawfully obtain public aid in amount more than $950

  • WI 10980(g)(1) Multiple welfare fraud

  • PC118(A)-F False Affidavit As Perjury

Quick Reference​ Sheet

Crime: Unlawfully Obtain Public Aid

Code: WI 10980(c)(2)

Wobbler: Yes. WI 10980(c)(2) is a wobbler crime. This means that WI 10980(c)(2) may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

Incarceration:Felony WI 10980(c)(2) jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted). Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.

Probation: Probation is allowed in felony and misdemeanor WI 10980(c)(2) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by a court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

PC 1170(h)): Yes. WI 10980(c)(2) is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may usually be:

  • Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)

  • Suspended (possibly never served)

  • Served in county jail (not state prison)

  • Note: Some limitations may apply

  • Note: Limitations may apply

Strike: WI 10980(c)(2) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: WI 10980(c)(2) is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Firearms: Felony WI 10980(c)(2) convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.

Bail: $25,000 (Felony); $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino)

Note: More penalties, direct or indirect, may apply. This WI10980(c)(2)-F info is created for that purpose only; accuracy not guaranteed. No attorney client relationship is formed by use of this info. If arrested or charged with a crime contact a criminal defense lawyer without delay. 

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