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Frequently Asked Questions about White Collar Crime
Q: What is "white collar crime"?
A: White collar crime is a term originally used to describe criminal activity by members of the upper classes in connection with their professions. Today, the most common definition of white collar crime no longer focuses on the social status of the offender but rather on the type of conduct involved: illegal acts using deceit and concealment to obtain money, property, or services, or to secure a business or professional advantage. White collar crimes are usually less violent than other crimes, but their effects can be just as devastating, such as in the recent Enron case.
In some cases, businesses or corporations may be found guilty of white collar crimes. This guilt is in addition to the guilt of any employees or officers involved in the crime.
Q: Who prosecutes white collar crimes?
A: White collar crimes may be either state or federal crimes. Because they often involve lengthy investigations that can cross state or even international boundaries, the federal government is usually in a better position to investigate and prosecute white collar crimes.
Estimates from analysts indicate that white collar crime cost the nation upwards of $200 billion per year. That's much more costly to society than "traditional" crimes like burglary and theft, which accounts for a fraction of that amount. As a result, prosecutors and courts are cracking down on white-collar crimes. If you have been accused of a white-collar crime, you should have an experienced advocate looking out for your interests.
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 very complex, and involve numerous complicated legal and factual issues. The possible penalties include fines, prison sentences, and criminal forfeiture. If you have been charged with a white collar crime, it is essential that you seek legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney at once so that you can preserve your rights and protect your future.
Fraud is a very serious, and very broadly defined, criminal offense. Criminal fraud is a charge that can be brought against a business, as well as against an individual (a business cannot be put in prison, but can be hit with substantial fines). A charge of fraud-let alone a conviction-can wreak havoc with the reputation of a person or company charged. Zealous legal representation is critical in fraud cases, as in all criminal cases. It is critical for an accused to seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Insider trading is an offense that has received a lot of attention in the media in recent years. The charge is a serious one, and can subject a person to both civil and criminal liability. It is critical for an accused to seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Penalties for White Collar Crime
The most frightening part of being a defendant in a white collar criminal case-or any criminal case-is the potential penalty involved. Most white collar defendants have no prior experience with the criminal justice system, and the question of what could happen looms understandably large in their minds. An experienced criminal defense attorney can give specific advice on the possible penalties in a particular case.
Civil Consequences of White Collar Crime
A prosecution for a white collar crime can lead to more than criminal penalties. Many white collar offenses may give rise to civil lawsuits, brought either by the federal or state government, or by the victims of the offense. Any civil liability imposed as a result of these suits is in addition to, and not a substitute for, the penalties imposed in the criminal case. An experienced white collar crime attorney can give specific advice on the possible civil liability in a particular case.
White Collar Crime Resource Links
National White Collar Crime Center Non-profit NW3C provides information on white collar crime issues and provides a newsletter, The Informant.
Types and Schemes of White Collar Crime This page from the National Check Fraud Center defines dozens of individual types of white collar crime, from bank fraud to Ponzi schemes.
Transcript of the testimony of Paul Rosenzweig, Senior Legal Research Fellow in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, an independent research and educational organization, and Adjunct Professor of Law at George Mason University, concerning trends in white collar crime prosecution and sentencing.