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Fleeing Felon Disqualification For SSI

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What are the "fleeing felon" rules?

The "fleeing felon" rules say that no person shall be considered eligible for SSI (or Food Stamps and some public assistance programs as well) for any month during which the person is fleeing to avoid prosecution or jail time after being convicted of a crime which is a felony under the law of the state where the crime occurred.

The law also provides that no person will be eligible for SSI while he or she is in violation of a condition of probation or parole under Federal or State law. The probation or parole violation rules applies to both felonies and misdemeanors.

How are these rules applied?

SSI has interpreted these rules to mean that just the existence of an outstanding warrant for a felony conviction or a parole or probation violation is enough to keep you from being eligible for SSI benefits. Also, you will continue not to be eligible for SSI until the warrant is vacated (dismissed or removed) by the court that issued it.

Even if a warrant is vacated, any SSI benefits paid during the time that you weren't eligible will be considered to be an overpayment which you will be required to repay, unless you ask for and receive a "waiver" (forgiveness) of the overpayment.

The fleeing felon rules now apply to both Social Security applicants and recipients as of January 1, 2005.

How does SSI discover the existence of outstanding warrants?

SSA has agreements with other federal, state and local government agencies including the FBI, the national criminal database, courts, police forces and prison systems to do computer cross checking of all SSI applicants and recipients. The age of a warrant does not matter. Even if the warrant is very old, and even if the jurisdiction which issued the warrant is not interested in pursuing you any more, you will still not be eligible to receive SSI while the warrant still exists.

Am I entitled to receive any notice from SSI if I am being denied benefits because of the fleeing felon rule?

Yes. You are entitled to written notice from SSI which includes information about the jurisdiction which issued the warrant. The information SSI provides may or may not be enough to help you try to get the warrant lifted.

What appeal rights do I have?

There are two basic ways to fight a fleeing felon charge, and using both may be necessary.

1) You have the right to file an Administrative Appeal. If the appeal (a request for reconsideration) is filed within 10 days of receipt of the notice, you can request continuing benefits. Benefits can continue until a reconsideration decision is made.

If SSI refuses to withdraw the fleeing felon charge at reconsideration, you have the right to request an administrative law judge hearing.

NOTE: Local Social Security offices may refuse to allow you to appeal or tell you that you cannot win. These tactics are in violation of Social Security regulations. If faced with this attitude, ask to speak to the Manager of the office.

2) The second action you can take is to try to clear the warrant. How best to do this depends on the jurisdiction which issued the warrant in the first place.

If you were represented by a public defender or a private attorney, you might want to contact that individual or office for help. If the crime was not serious, a court may be willing to dismiss an old warrant "in the interest of justice." However, if the crime is serious enough, you can face jail time.

If the warrant is cleared, you will need to get something in writing, like a letter from the court or an order from a judge. Bring this paper to Social Security as soon as possible in order to get back on benefits

What defenses are there to outstanding warrants or the application of the fleeing felon rules?

If any of the following situations apply to your case, you may have a defense to the fleeing felon rules:

  • SSA does not have enough evidence that you are a "fleeing felon".

  • The warrant has already been cleared but the paperwork was not done yet.

  • The crime is no longer classified as a felony.

  • The person being sought is not really you, for example, there is a different person with the same name, or you a victim of identity theft, etc.

  • You were not really fleeing. Evidence of this can include the fact that:

    • You have been using your own name in the phone directory or you have a listed telephone number;

    • You have been paying taxes;

    • You are a registered voter;

    • You have some other evidence that shows that you are not "hiding out"; and

    • You can also show that you didn't know that that a warrant had been issued or that you believed that any charge had been resolved.

  • You volunteered to return to the jurisdiction which issued the warrant, but you could not afford to do this without financial help from a government entity.
NOTE: The Department of Agriculture, which administers the Food Stamp program, has taken the position a person cannot be fleeing until they have knowledge of an outstanding warrant and have been given an opportunity to resolve the warrant.

Should I fight a fleeing felon charge?

Any individual who has a good defense, such as those described above, should consider filing an administrative appeal. If you are, in fact, the subject of an outstanding warrant, you should also seek to have the warrant vacated as quickly as possible

Last Review and Update: May 07, 2009

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