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Court of Appeals calls unemployment fraud law unconstitutional

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On Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals struck down a law intended to prevent unemployment fraud, saying the law is based on "anecdotal evidence of a hypothetical fraud scheme," that it is arbitrary, and that it violates the Minnesota Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

The case was reportedly brought by a Richfield man who had cared for his mother as a PCA between March 2010 and December 2011. Although DEED did not accuse him of trying to manipulate the system, it denied unemployment benefits under the law, which took effect in 2010.

The law, which was defended by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Redevelopment (DEED), bars unemployment benefits for personal care assistants who take care of family members.

According to DEED, the law solved a supposed fraud scheme in which PCA's caring for family members would falsify work hours to increase unemployment benefits. But the court said that DEED offered no evidence or legal authority to support the allegation of fraud.

The court did admit that existing fraud protections are inadequate to address the issue, but that the law created a presumption that any immediate family member personal care assistance who applies for unemployment is doing so out for dishonest purposes.

The decision means that county courts may no longer enforce the law, which was not properly founded in the first place.

While we don't want to stretch the comparison too far, the inadequacies of the law as cited by the appeals court are always a concern when it comes to defending those accused of fraud. Ensuring that charges are properly founded is a primary concern for defense attorneys, along with protecting the defendant's basic rights.

Source: Minneapolis Business Journal, "Unemployment fraud law rules unconstitutional by Minnesota Court of Appeals," Jim Hammerand, February 25, 2013

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