White collar crimes are committed every year. Sometimes the perpetrator is discovered. Other times, such actions go undetected. In other cases, the defendant may be targeted by someone who actually committed the crime and is trying to avoid detection.
When a person is caught engaging in white collar crimes, he or she may face a variety of state or federal charges. Many such charges are classified as serious felonies.
Origin of White Collar Crime Classifications
Professor Edwin Hardin Sutherland coined the term “white collar crime” in 1939. Professor Sutherland said that white collar crime was a crime that is committed by a person who is usually in a respectable position in society and often has a high social status based on his or her occupation.
Today, white collar crimes encompass a broad spectrum of criminal behaviors that are often used to procure some gain. These crimes are considered nonviolent in nature. They may be commercial crimes in nature. They are often committed by business people, government officials and people in professional positions. White collar refers to the type of profession that the person has, meaning that he or she may wear a suit or other business attire as a typical style of wardrobe as required by his or her profession. With today’s new technology, many white collar crimes are committed by using computer and other technology, often to gain access to confidential financial information.
Common Types of White Collar Crimes
There are a variety of white collar crimes. They vary in range, complexity and severity. Insurance fraud including automotive insurance, homeowner insurance, medical insurance and Medicaid insurance may all involve people who attempt to commit fraud. Insider trading, securities fraud, hedge fund fraud and stock manipulation are white collar crimes that may be committed when stocks or bonds are involved. Computer fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud may also be the result of white collar crimes. White collar crimes also include identity theft, mortgage broker fraud, bribery, embezzlement and tax evasion. These crimes are some of the most common types of white collar crimes. These crimes all have the similarity that the ultimate goal is to receive some type of economic or financial gain.
Special Characteristics of White Collar Crimes
White collar crimes may go undetected for many years. This allows white collar criminals to profit off of illegal methods for a substantial period of time. Often, when these crimes are committed, it is due to being a crime of opportunity. These crimes often involve people who have special knowledge that gives them the opportunity to perform complex transactions that law enforcement or regulators may find difficulty to track.
Effect of White Collar Crimes
While some people believe that white collar criminals should not be punished as harshly as other criminals due to violence not being involved, the effects of white collar crimes may be severe and long-lasting. Sometimes a person’s entire life savings is wiped out. In other cases, widespread tactics cause hundreds or thousands of people to lose hard-earned money. Businesses may file bankruptcy due to the effect of an unscrupulous criminal. The annual toll of white collar crimes is more than $3 billion.
Prosecution of White Collar Crimes
Due to the substantial effects of white collar crimes, numerous regulations have been enacted to curtail such events. These regulations exist on the state and federal level. This unique characteristic means that the crimes may be prosecuted in state or federal court. Due to the vast number of regulations that are in force, there are more prosecutions and convictions than in previous years.
Being under federal investigation is often a negative experience for defendants who discover the full force and disposal of resources that the federal government can use. Often in white collar offenses, federal agents invest months into detailed investigations. They may obtain digital evidence and other information through a detailed computer forensics investigation.
Individuals who are being investigated for a white collar offense may decide to contact a criminal defense lawyer familiar with white collar crimes. He or she can help a person identify the potential charges that a defendant may be under based on the circumstances and plausible ways to defend against them. It may even be necessary for a person to hire a criminal defense lawyer even if he or she is not guilty of a crime but his or her coworkers or acquaintances are since he or she may very easily be caught up in the investigation.