White Collar Crime - An Overview
Crimes that do not involve physical violence, and that relate largely to financial matters, are often called white collar crimes. White collar crimes involve most of the same legal principles as do other crimes, and people charged with white collar crimes have the same rights and protections as defendants accused of other crimes. On the other hand, white collar offenses are often complex, and involve numerous complicated legal and factual issues. The possible penalties include fines, prison sentences, restitution and criminal forfeiture. If you have been charged with a white collar crime, call today to schedule a consultation with an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney.
What is white collar crime?
The phrase white collar crime was first used by Edwin Sutherland in 1939 during a speech to the American Sociological Society. He defined white collar crime as a "crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation." Today, white collar crime refers to illegal offenses that are generally committed in the business or professional setting (white collar versus blue collar jobs) to achieve financial gain. They are essentially "paper crimes" in which the perpetrator uses deceit to obtain money, property or some professional advantage. White collar crime encompasses a number of offenses including mail fraud, embezzlement, securities fraud, tax evasion, conspiracy, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) offenses, financial crime, public corruption and bribery.
White collar criminal investigation
The investigation of a white collar crime can be a long, involved process, and may go on for months or years. A person may be unaware that he or she is the target of a criminal investigation until formal charges are filed. Defense lawyers should become involved in the matter as early as possible — as soon as a person suspects he or she may be involved in an investigation, even as a witness. In many cases, the prosecutor will use a grand jury to investigate and gather information. The complex nature of a white collar criminal prosecution means that a person's potential exposure may not be clear in the early stages of the investigation. A defense lawyer should certainly be consulted before any meeting with law enforcement, however innocuous it may seem.
Criminal defense attorneys can negotiate plea agreements
Sometimes, after a person is charged with a crime, the charges will be dropped as a result of the defense attorney's negotiations with the prosecutor. In other cases, the prosecutor may agree to drop the more serious charges if the defendant agrees to plead guilty to lesser charges or to cooperate with an ongoing investigation. The criminal defendant, not his or her attorney, always has the final word, however, on whether to accept a plea agreement.
Depending on the severity of the crime, a defendant who is convicted may receive probation, have a fine imposed, be ordered to perform community service, be ordered to make restitution (pay back the losses caused by the criminal acts), be sentenced to prison or be sentenced to some combination thereof. An experienced white collar criminal defense attorney can work with the prosecutor to negotiate a deal that provides for the least severe punishment. If no deal is worked out, he or she can zealously represent the defendant in court, attempting to prove to the jury that the prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
Speak to a criminal defense lawyer
Being accused of a crime is a frightening and stressful event. A charge of a white collar crime imposes extra stress, since a person's professional or business integrity is often at issue. If you or someone you know has been charged with committing a white collar crime, do not delay. Call today to schedule a consultation with a white collar criminal defense attorney.
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