White-collar crimes are a variety of nonviolent crimes usually committed in commercial or business situations for monetary gain. Most of these crimes are prosecuted by the federal government and are very serious.

The phrase “white collar” refers to individuals who commit these crimes are usually professionals instead of “Blue-Collar” laborers.

What Is Criminal Law? How Does White-Collar Criminal Law Work?

Civil law addresses conduct that causes some injury to a person or other private party through lawsuits. The penalties for any parties responsible for these acts are typically monetary. Nevertheless, penalties can also include court-ordered remedies, such as injunctions or restraining orders.

Alternatively, criminal law is designed to address behavior considered an offense against society, the state, or the public. If someone is convicted of a crime, they may be forced to pay fines and 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 individual still has the right to a trial and certain other legal protections. Also, whether the accused is charged in federal court or a state court largely depends on what crime they are being charged with and where the alleged offense happened.

Although each state has its own set of criminal laws, certain Constitutional rights 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 to stop an accused individual from being kept in jail for extended periods without adjudication;
  • Right To A Jury: Further, the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a trial by jury. The majority of jurisdictions permit the defendant to waive a jury in favor of a bench trial, in which a judge and not a jury determine guilt. Nevertheless, this is the defendant’s choice alone; also, 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, to assist 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 interest.

Examples of White Collar Crimes

  • Computer / Internet Fraud
    • Applying for credit cards online under false names
    • Unauthorized use of a computer or information on that computer
    • Manipulation of computer files
    • Computer sabotage/hacking
  • Bankruptcy Fraud
    • Misleading creditors
    • Concealing assets from the bankruptcy court or your bankruptcy lawyer
  • Bribery
    • The offering of money or anything of value that is used to influence the actions of the decision-maker
  • Credit Card Fraud
    • Unauthorized use of a credit card
    • Identity theft
  • Counterfeiting
    • Reproducing or imitating an item without authorization to try and pass it off as the genuine article
  • Trade Secret Theft
    • Theft or misappropriation of trade secret info
    • A trade secret is anything used in a business that makes them different, and for that secret to be exposed would cause the business to lose substantial value
    • An example of this would be for an employee of Coca-cola to leak their recipe to Pepsi and get paid for it
  • Health Care Fraud
    • Usually has some relation to insurance and includes but is not limited to:
      • Kickbacks
      • Billing for services not rendered
      • Billing for unnecessary equipment
      • Billing by a lesser qualified person – like a nurse billing under the hours of a doctor
      • Any falsification of records to make an additional profit
  • Insider Trading
    • Those with privileged info take special advantage and reap profits or avoid losses in the stock market to the detriment of the typical investor
    • More information about securities law can be found at Securities Law
  • Anti-Trust Violations
    • One or two companies attempt to dominate a particular market by getting rid of all competition.
    • More information about anti-trust violations can be found at Anti-trust and Trade Regulation

What Are Some Other Examples Of White Collar Crime?

There are a wide variety of crimes that would constitute a white-collar crime. In general, some of the other most typical examples of white-collar crime include:

  • Criminal Fraud: Criminal fraud involves a scheme intended to cheat or mislead another person or entity. This is done to get a financial or similar type of gain. According to criminal fraud law, any action intended to mislead another through false representation of fact, resulting in legal detriment to the person who relied on the information, could be deemed criminal fraud. Just a few specific examples of criminal fraud include identity theft, forgery, and perjury;
  • Embezzlement: Embezzlement happens when a person entrusted to handle the finances of another individual or business illegally takes that money for personal use. The crime is most commonly perpetrated in situations involving employees with access to their employer’s checks, cash, 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 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 importing and selling illegal drugs, prostitution rings, and gambling. Additionally, protection rackets involve a criminal organization extorting money from businesses for “protection” against crimes, which the criminal organization itself would most likely commit;
  • Securities Fraud: Securities fraud is any fraud used in connection with the sale of a security. Securities fraud law is generally intended to stop anyone from using a scheme to defraud, make false statements, 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; or
  • Tax Evasion: Tax evasion happens when a person commits an act designed to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). The definition of tax evasion is extensive so that the IRS may pursue an individual for almost any known misstatements on their taxes. Tax evasion generally involves people or corporations misrepresenting their income to the IRS.

What Else Should I Know About White Collar Crimes?

Government prosecutors prosecute most white-collar crimes. Prosecutors consider the nature of the crime and information obtained from the arresting officers’ police reports to determine if and what charges to file.

For felony white collar crimes, prosecutors occasionally have grand juries make the charging decisions. These are 15-23 randomly selected people who consider the evidence and determine 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, different punishments 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; or
  • Probation.

Accused of a White Collar Crime?

Suppose you are accused of a White Collar Crime. In that case, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses, and the complicated legal system.