What is a White Collar Crime?
A white collar crime is non violent. It is a crime that often occurs in a business setting. When you think about white collar crime, think about crimes like embezzlement. The crimes often involve trickery with numbers. For example, consider an accountant who misappropriates funds. Or, consider the investor who lies to customers about losses. These are all examples of white collar crimes.
White Collar Crimes are Still Criminal
Many white collar crimes skate the fine line between criminal and legal. Each institution often has legal loopholes. Or, at least there is a perception of legal loopholes. While there is an intent to take someone else’s money for themselves, the actions are often subtle. They actions are often not necessarily clearly criminal in nature. Consider the recent housing crash. There were companies that utilized foreclosed properties to collect large rents, until the bank actually regained possession of the house. These companies didn’t keep up with the property. The tenants often destroyed the houses. The houses were gutted. The lawns were not kept up. In all essence, these individuals were making money off of a foreclosed property until the banks actually could come back in.
Was this criminal? Possibly. However, there was no clear cut law. Therefore, in order to prosecute, a clever prosecutor might have had to utilize obscure laws. Or, in the alternative, the prosecutor would have had to charge them under general laws, trying to carve a niche in that general law with the specified offense. Prosecutors pursue some of these cases. However, they decline prosecution in many others. These cases walk the line in many instances.
Despite the subtle nature of many of these actions, they are still crimes. White collar crime attorneys help to push the prosecution from the belief of criminality to a mere civil action. On the close cases, your attorney may be able to avoid a criminal prosecution. Your attorney’s goal is to pursue the case in a civil courtroom instead of a criminal courtroom.
State White Collar Crimes versus Federal White Collar Crimes
Depending on who’s doing the investigation, a white collar crime case may fall under federal jurisdiction. However, it may fall under state jurisdiction. There are different penalties for the federal system than they have for the State System. For example, there are aggravated identity theft charges that carry minimum-mandatory prison sentences in federal court. These same types of charges might not even carry jail in state courtroom. Consider that different. A person accused of the same thing can be sentenced very differently. This difference is merely the difference in jurisdiction.
Federal cases are the most difficult. They usually carry the longer sentences. They usually have stricter prosecution. State Court is usually easier. However, not always. State court uses a scoresheet. The scoresheet sets the lowest sentence. If you don’t score over 44, prison is not mandatory. Most white collar offenses don’t score mandatory prison. In federal, there is a sentencing chart also. This charts sets a range. If the judge wants to go around the range there has to be a reason. The judge cannot waive a mandatory sentence. For example, a mandatory 3-year prison sentence. The judge cannot go around that. There are exceptions. Consider a substantial assistance. Where Government wants you to help them. If you perform substantial assistance, then the judge can go below the mandatory sentence. This requires a 5k motion from government. This motion allows the judge to go below.
Defenses to White Collar Crime
White Collar Crimes each have defenses. Your attorney will discuss the defense depending on the crime charged. For example defenses to a theft charge vary. You could argue that the theft was done by someone else. Or, you could argue accident. The key is the intent. If there was no criminal intent then there was no crime.
Make sure to call your lawyer early on. Many white collar crimes get worse early on. For example, the employer finds out. The client tries to talk out of it. The police come. The client again tries to talk himself out of it. Both of these moments hurt the criminal case. Moreover, there are now two potential confessions. Or, at the very least there are now two horrible stories. Terrible stories can be introduced at trial. Call your lawyer early on. Don’t let the case escalate.
Call a Lawyer Early
Most white collar crime cases involve time. That is time from the incident to the arrest. If you are suspected of white collar crime get a lawyer. The lawyer will advise you on the law. The lawyer will advise you on what to do and what not to do. The police will come talk to you once you are suspected. Your boss will have called first. Your lawyer should be there for this interview. The lawyer will discuss with you the law prior to the meeting with police. The lawyer will also discuss your actual involvement prior to the interview. In some instances your lawyer will tell you not to go on the interview.
No charges will be filed if the police can’t prove the case. If the police do move forward then a affidavit will be sent to judge. The judge will sign the affidavit and issue a warrant. The warrant will likely have a bond amount. Don’t be intimidated by the arrest. Many arrests don’t ever get filed as formal charges. It’s merely an arrest. Trust your lawyer. Trust the process. Call your lawyer after bonding. He then obtains your full discovery. Your discovery includes evidence against you. Once he obtained that, then the case will officially be underway.