The actual term “white-collar crime” goes back to the 1930s and was generally used when prosecuting non-violent crimes that did not fit criminal law definitions at the time. Back then, they may not have been prosecuted as vigorously as crimes committed with violence or harm to another.
Today the definition is somewhat the same and refers to non-violent crimes committed for financial gain. These crimes are usually committed by professionals but include many more types of charges and are prosecuted much more vigorously. This is where a criminal defense lawyer can help.
It may not matter if the crime involves millions of dollars or mere hundreds. The penalties depend on the harm the perpetrator has done. White-collar crimes can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony and significant jail time or fines could be imposed.
Some examples of white-collar crimes are:
Fraud – This can be insurance fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud, healthcare fraud, workers comp fraud, and others. Fraud is considered a serious offense and can possibly carry a felony charge. The penalties can be severe and include jail time and fines.
Bribery – California law defines bribery as giving a public official almost anything of value for some type of advantage. It includes trying to sway a vote, coerce witnesses or jurors in a legal case, get special treatment from judicial or legislative officers, and more.
Forgery – Anytime you sign the name of another person, or a fictitious person, you may be committing fraud. The intent to defraud is vital to this type of case, and the prosecution has to prove the intent. Criminal penalties can be severe, and the court will look at past criminal history, the value of the fraud intended, and harm to the victim(s).
Counterfeiting – This relates to any person who reproduces fake IDs, drivers’ licenses, or even counterfeit merchandise (purses, clothing, electronics, etc.). This is a serious crime in California and can impose years of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. If the defendant reproduced a federal ID or counterfeited U.S. dollars, then federal charges could compound and extend the penalties.
Money laundering – This is also a profoundly serious crime and is committed when the defendant essentially uses funds made through illegal means (gambling, drug sales, drug or sex trafficking, etc.), and passes the funds through a legal business (or other sources) so that it appears to have been received legally. Money laundering can have years of jail time and severe fines.
It’s important to note that the prosecution of all white-collar crime has significantly increased in volume and severity. No one should take a white-collar crime charge, of any type, lightly. The defendant could be facing jail time and fines that could ruin their career and dismantle their lives.
What is the Process for Prosecuting a White-Collar Crime in California?
All white-collar crimes vary as to how they are prosecuted and to the range of punishment imposed on the perpetrator. As a rule, these crimes are complicated, involve in-depth financial investigation, and hundreds of hours of man-hours to prosecute. With that in mind, the penalties and jail time increase proportionately and may be very severe.
Criminal fraud cases, for example, could be investigated for years before charges are made. No matter how severe the act, all white-collar cases are investigated in a like manner. Only after the prosecution is positive they have the facts lined up will they file charges.
For this reason, you must consult or retain an attorney that will help the accused possibly avoid serious criminal penalties. Your criminal defense attorney can monitor the process from the very beginning of the investigation, thus helping the accused fight for a more positive outcome.
Why Has Prosecution of White-Collar Crimes Increased and What Does That Mean for My Case?
We now live in a world runs online. Throughout the years, white-collar crimes have become more prevalent because so much information is available to those who intend to commit these crimes. With the right computer code, login information, and a relatively small amount of personal information, the white-collar criminal can virtually take over their victim’s lives. Electronic white-collar crime has rapidly grown over the last 20-25 years and will continue to increase. Today’s sophisticated white-collar criminals no longer need guns. They just need keyboards.
Due to the current nature of many of these crimes, the prosecution and penalties imposed have become much more severe, so they may seriously deter some would-be white-collar criminals.
Your criminal defense attorney knows how serious these crimes now are. After the many recent bank failures, corporate scandals, insider trading, and cybercrimes, defendants are under much more scrutiny than ever before.
What Are Some Defenses for White-Collar Crime Charges?
An experienced white-collar criminal defense attorney will know what the defendant is facing, and how best to defend them.
But some general, common defenses include:
- There was no intent – the defendant had no intent to defraud for a gain of any type, and there was no planning to defraud.
- Insufficient evidence – Simply not enough evidence to convict the defendant.
- Mistaken identity or mistake of fact – the defendant did not know the information that was used was false, and there was no way of knowing who the perpetrator was as it was all done online or behind the scenes.
- Non-fraudulent statement – A false statement has to be related to a material fact. Not all false statements are fraudulent.
- No injury – The victim did not suffer any loss or harm in any way.
- Illegal search and seizure – The evidence against the defendant was not legally obtained.
There certainly are many other defenses, but they all hinge on getting your criminal defense attorney involved as soon as possible. When anyone is informed or even feels that they (or their business) is under investigation consult a white-collar criminal defense attorney and allow them to mount a thorough defense, because a white-collar crime charge and conviction can have disastrous effects on the defendant’s finances, business, life, and the future lives of their family.