Most white collar crimes are prosecuted by government lawyers (prosecutors) that work for a prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office is responsible for seeking justice in its jurisdiction. Prosecutors consider the nature of the crime and information from the arresting officers’ police report to determine if and what charges to file, which are subject to change. 

For felonies, prosecutors sometimes use grand juries to make the charging decisions. Grand juries are comprised of 15-23 randomly selected individuals who consider the evidence and decide if and what charges should be filed. Concurrently, the prosecution and defense gather evidence and prepare for hearings and trial, if the case progresses that far.

What Are the Punishments for White Collar Crimes?

Different punishments can be imposed:

  • Compensation payment to victim
  • Community service
  • Fines
  • Incarceration in jail (shorter term)
  • Incarceration in prison (longer term)
  • Probation

Who Determines the Punishment for White Collar Crimes?

Punishments, also called sentences, can be set by trial juries or judges.  For sentences imposed by a judge, the sentencing judge can consider several factors in determining the punishment:

  • Nature of the crime
  • Input from the prosecutor (for serious felonies)
  • Defendant’s criminal history (or lack thereof)
  • Defendant’s social, economic, and other personal circumstances

For federal crimes, the United States Sentencing Commission, an independent agency within the judicial branch, establishes standards for sentencing. The Commission recommends punishment ranges for each category of convicted defendants. The sentencing judge must select a sentence within the guideline range, unless the judge is justified in considering the case unusual enough to deviate from the guidelines.

What Can You Do If You Are Convicted of a White Collar Crime?

If you have been convicted of a white collar crime, you should speak to a criminal defense lawyer to learn more about your rights. A lawyer can also help you with an appeal, if you feel your conviction and/or punishment was the result of a miscarriage of justice.