SNAP Violation Defense
What You Need to Know:
Unlike many other state and federal agencies, the USDA is not a business friendly agency. Since 2013, the Department has spent a considerable amount of time seeking to disqualify small stores. It is their belief that the majority of trafficking that occurs on SNAP happens at small stores in urban areas. Accordingly, these stores are targeted for both undercover investigations and for data analysis evaluations. If either of these investigations indicate that a violation has occurred, a Charge Letter is sent out to the store. If your store receives this letter, you will be given ten (10) days to compile a response to the charges. The best chance you have to prove your store’s innocence is with a SNAP Violation Defense Attorney.
Can I Handle the Case on My Own?
Yes, you can, though it is difficult to win a case that you handle without assistance from either a SNAP Violation Defense Attorney or a CPA. The overall success rate of fighting the SNAP Violation for stores without representation was roughly eight percent (8%) in 2016. Successful appeals of disqualifications handled by stores without assistance was even lower – four percent (4%).
To make matters worse, the result of the Charging Letters is usually very bad. In 2016, the USDA disqualified 2,619 stores in the United States. Sixty percent (60%) of the disqualified stores were Convenience Stores. Twenty-seven percent (27%) were small grocery stores. In total, seventy-percent (70%) of the stores that were sanctioned were permanently disqualified.
The problem with self representation is not that the store owners were guilty of trafficking or other SNAP violations, it was that the store owners didn’t know how to respond to the Charging Letter. So, while you can handle your own case, your store stands a better chance of success with the attorneys from Metropolitan Law Group.
What Do I Need to Be Successful in My SNAP Violation Defense case?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. When the USDA’s analysts are asked, they will usually tell you that they would just like for you to send any receipts you may have for the transactions and a written explanation for the allegations listed in their SNAP Violation Charging letter. If you press them for more information, they will tell you that you can send “anything else that you believe might be helpful.” This isn’t everything that you need to win your case, and it isn’t even everything they are considering.
If your case is data driven, most FNS Section Chiefs and Analysts consider other information. This includes the size of your store, the number of shopping carts for customer use and the checkout counter space. They will consider the shopping habits of the participants that visit your store, and the amount of inventory on your shelves when their last inspection occurred. Many analysts will look at your transactions after you receive the Charge Letter. All of the analysts will consider your local competitors to determine if your sales are different than theirs. There are, in fact, pages and pages of other factors that also weigh in on your case.
if your case is an affidavit driven case, the FNS Section Chiefs and Analysts are focused on the transactions set out in the attachments. They want to know if those transactions occurred. If they did occur, they want to know if you qualify for a civil money penalty (CMP). If you don’t qualify for a CMP, then the Department will suspend or disqualify your store. See our guidebook on how to handle an affidavit driven SNAP Violation case for more help on these cases.
Retain the Specialists to Protect Your Store
It is our job, as a SNAP Violation Defense firm, to help you identify what documents, information, affidavits and arguments will give your store the strongest possible position. We handle the deadlines, document requests and production, and the responses to the USDA.
Since 2013, Metropolitan Law Group has represented hundreds of retailers in SNAP Violation Defense cases. We have won SNAP cases across the country, and are pleased to represent clients in 49 States and 2 territories. Our firm is the only SNAP focused firm in the United States. Accordingly, we have handled and won some of the most difficult SNAP Violation cases filed by the USDA.
We have specialized and unique knowledge that no other firm posses. Through dozens of SNAP Judicial Appeals, Metropolitan Law has compiled specialized information about USDA Section Chiefs, Analysts and Administrative Review Officers. We have deposed a number of the Department’s officials, and asked the tough questions about how the system works. Through our experience, we have created the strongest formula to win cases, and have developed specific strategies to provide the Department with sufficient information to dismiss your case.