If you are the owner of business that accepts payments via the USDA SNAP program, you understand that there are certain qualifications that you need to maintain to continue to participate in that program. If you appear to have committed some sort of violation, you can face the prospect of having to address USDA SNAP violations.
Facing USDA SNAP violations is a serious matter. You need to not only understand the nature of the accusations being made against you but the procedures in place to defend yourself against these charges.
Four Stages in an USDA SNAP Violations Case
When faced with an allegation of USDA SNAP violations, there are four possible stages to the overall process. You need to have a basic understanding of the four potential phases of a SNAP violations case in order to understand what you must do in order to protect your legal interests. The failure to understand these steps, or the failure to take appropriate action at anyone of these phases, can have negative consequences for you and your business.
The first stage in an USDA SNAP violation case is the issuance of a charging letter. A charging letter sets forth why your business is alleged to have violated the USDA SNAP program. A charging letter provides you with 10 days to respond to the allegations in the charging letter. If you fail to respond to the charging letter, the allegations within the document will be deemed accurate. Your business’ EBT license will be terminated or removed.
The second stage in a violation case is a response to the charging letter submitted on behalf of your business. Ideally, you retain legal counsel to prepare and submitted the response to the charging letter. An experienced USDA SNAP violations lawyer understands how to respond properly to an USDA SNAP charging letter.
The USDA reviews the communication prepared on your behalf in response to the charging letter. The USDA may concur with the position taken in the response and dismiss the allegations made in the charging letter. The agency way agree with part, but not all of what is set forth in the response and dismiss some of the allegations. Finally, the agency may maintain that all of the original alleged violations have occurred.
When the USDA maintains some or all of the original allegations contained in the charging letter, you then have the opportunity to proceed to the third step of the USDA SNAP violations process. This is known as an administrative review.
An administrative review is undertaken by a specially designated hearing officer. The hearing officer reviews materials from the USDA and from you which set forth your respective positons regarding the allegations. The review process can result in a dismissal of some or all of the allegations. On the other hand, it is also possible that the allegations will be fully affirmed during the review process.
The final phase of a matter involving USDA SNAP violations is what is called judicial review of an agency action. Through a judicial review, the decision of the USDA regarding SNAP violations is “appealed” to the United States District Court. This final review is undertaken by the federal court.
You do need to keep in mind that there is a legal presumption when seeking a review of a decision made by the USDA regarding a SNAP violation that this determination was correct. You need to present evidence and legal authority sufficient to overcome this presumption. Generally speaking, a skilled attorney with experience in USDA SNAP violations cases is in the best possible position to be able to present a compelling case on appeal to the United States District Court.
In theory, if you do not prevail in the United States District Court, you could pursue an additional appeal to the United States Court of Appeals. Keep in mind that the appellate court will likely prove to be the last option you have for relief. Only an extremely small percentage of cases are ever heard before the United States Supreme Court.
One of the more common types of USDA SNAP violations is what is known as trafficking. In the confines of the SNAP program, trafficking occurs when a retailer knowingly accepts stolen or fraudulent EBT cards. Payments via the SNAP program are made through transfers from electronic funds transfer, or EBT, cards.
Purchases through the USDA SNAP program must be confined to food and non-alcoholic drinks that get consumed at home. If a merchant permits someone to purchase items outside of these categories, a SNAP charging letter is likely to be issued.
False SNAP Application
Another example of a SNAP violation is submitting a false application to participate in the program. If a retailer provides inaccurate information on an application to accept EBT, that business can be booted from the program.
If the total amount of EBT redemptions are deemed higher than food sold during a specified time period, that can result in a SNAP violation. This issue technically is known as inaccurate coupon accounting.
Disqualification from WIC Program
If a merchant is disqualified from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, that can also result in the issuance of a SNAP violation letter. A merchant can be disqualified from the SNAP program if disqualified in the WIC program.
Retain Legal Representation in an USDA SNAP Violations Case
Taking a proactive stance to retain qualified legal representation when facing USDA SNAP Violations is crucial to fully protect your vital legal interests. The first step in engaging capable legal counsel is scheduling an initial consultation with an experienced USDA SNAP violations lawyer.
During an initial consultation, a skilled lawyer will provide an overview of your case, including strategies to defend against an allegation of USDA SNAP violations. You will also receive answers to any questions that you might have regarding your situation. As a general rule, there is no fee charged for an initial consultation with an attorney in this type of case.
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