Civil law addresses behavior that causes some sort of injury to a person or other private party through the use of lawsuits. The penalties for any parties that are found to be liable for these acts are generally monetary. However, penalties can also include court-ordered remedies, such as injunctions or restraining orders.
Alternatively, criminal law is designed to address behavior that is considered to be an offense against society, the state, or the public. If someone is convicted of a crime they may be forced to pay fines, and they may lose their freedom by being sentenced to jail or prison time.
Whether someone is being charged with a serious crime or a minor one, the accused person still has the right to a trial, as well as certain other legal protections. Additionally, whether the accused is charged in federal court or in a state court largely depends on what crime they are being charged with, as well as where the alleged offense occurred.
Although each state has its own set of criminal laws, there are certain Constitutional rights that apply to every defendant, no matter what crime was committed or where it happened. These rights include:
- Right To A Speedy Trial: The Sixth Amendment guarantees that a criminal defendant will have the right to a speedy trial. This right is granted in order to prevent an accused person from being kept in jail for extended periods of time without adjudication;
- Right To A Jury: Additionally, the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a trial by jury. The majority of jurisdictions allow the defendant to waive a jury in favor of a bench trial, in which guilt is determined by a judge and not a jury. However, this is the defendant’s choice alone; additionally, civil trials have their own rules in terms of jury rights;
- Miranda Rights: Miranda rights are what give the criminal defendant access to an attorney, whether or not they can afford one, in order to aid in their criminal defense; and
- Protection Against Self-Incrimination: This Constitutional protection is also referred to as “pleading the fifth.” According to this right, a defendant cannot be forced to testify against their own interest.
What Is White Collar Crime?
The term “white-collar crime” is used to refer to nonviolent crimes that are generally committed for financial gain. According to the FBI, “these crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust.” These crimes are generally motivated by either gaining money, or avoiding losing money, property, or services. However, they may also be motivated by a need to secure a personal and/or business advantage.
The term itself is defined as a “crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” Historically, white-collar workers have historically been defined by office jobs and management, while blue-collar workers traditionally wore blue shirts while working in more physically demanding jobs.
White-collar crimes have grown exponentially as new technology and financial products have created new means of committing such crimes. Additionally, there are multiple new white-collar crimes that are facilitated by the internet, such as fraudulent emails requesting help by sending a substantial amount of money.
Some definitions of white-collar crime only include offenses by an individual, in order to benefit themselves. However, the FBI defines these crimes as including “large-scale fraud perpetrated by many throughout a corporate or government institution.” The agency names corporate crime as among its highest enforcement priorities, because these crimes cause significant financial losses to investors. Additionally, the FBI states that these crimes have the potential to cause considerable damage to the U.S. economy, as well as investor confidence.
What Are Some Examples Of White Collar Crime?
There are a wide variety of crimes that would constitute white collar crime. In general, some of the most common examples of white collar crime include:
- Criminal Fraud: Criminal fraud involves a scheme intended to cheat or deceive another individual or entity. This is done in order to obtain a financial or similar type of gain. According to criminal fraud law, any action that is intended to deceive another through false representation of fact, resulting in legal detriment to the person who relied on the information, could be considered an act of criminal fraud. Just a few specific examples of criminal fraud include identity theft, forgery, and perjury;
- Embezzlement: Embezzlement occurs when a person, who is entrusted to handle the finances of another person or business, illegally takes that money for their own personal use. The crime is most commonly committed in situations involving an employee with access to their employer’s checks, cash, and/or bank accounts.
- An example of this would be if an accountant or bookkeeper illegally writes a check to themselves, steals cash, or withdraws money from business bank accounts to put into their own bank accounts;
- Racketeering: Racketeering is the operation of an illegal business, or racket, generally associated with organized crime. A few examples of criminal rackets include the importation and sale of illegal drugs, prostitution rings, and gambling. Additionally, protection rackets involve a criminal organization extorting money from businesses for “protection” against crimes, which would most likely be committed by the criminal organization itself;
- Securities Fraud: Securities fraud is any fraud that is used in connection with the sale of a security. Securities fraud law is generally intended to prevent anyone from using a scheme to defraud, make untrue statements, and/or fail to make a statement that deceives investors. The crime can also include theft from manipulation of the market, as well as theft from securities accounts; and/or
- Tax Evasion: Tax evasion occurs when a person commits an act that is designed to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). The definition of tax evasion is very broad, so that the IRS may pursue an individual for almost any known misstatements on their taxes. Tax evasion generally involves an individual or corporation misrepresenting their income to the IRS.
Other examples of white collar crime include:
- Computer and internet fraud;
- Bankruptcy fraud;
- Credit card fraud;
- Trade secret theft;
- Health care fraud;
- Insider trading; and
- Antitrust violations.
What Else Should I Know About White Collar Crimes?
Most white collar crimes are prosecuted by government prosecutors. Prosecutors consider the nature of the crime, as well as information obtained from the arresting officers’ police report, in order to determine if and what charges to file.
For felony white collar crimes, prosecutors sometimes have grand juries make the charging decisions. These are 15-23 randomly selected people who consider the evidence, and decide if and what charges should be filed. At the same time, the prosecution and defense both gather evidence and prepare for hearings and trial.
In terms of legal penalties for white collar crimes, there are different punishments that may be imposed:
- Compensation payment to victim;
- Community service;
- Criminal fines;
- Incarceration in either jail or prison, depending on whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony; and/or
Do I Need An Attorney For White Collar Crime?
If you are being accused of committing a white collar crime, you will need to consult with an area criminal defense attorney.
An experienced and local lawyer will be best suited to helping you understand your state’s specific laws regarding the matter, and what your legal rights and options are under those laws. Additionally, they will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.