White collar crime is a term that covers a wide variety of non-violent, criminal activity ranging from tax fraud to identity theft and child pornography. White collar crimes often involve computers, the Internet or financial deception.
These crimes are complex and varied, which is probably why there are many misconceptions about them. Here are a few of the common misconceptions.
Common white collar crime misconceptions
There is a lot of mystery surrounding white collar crime. Corruption, tax fraud and corporate malfeasance are often misunderstood and have some long-standing myths:
- No real jail time: Gone are the days when white collar crimes convictions meant sentences that were better measured in months than years. A report on sentencing trends shows that with crimes that caused $2.5 million or more in losses, individuals were sentenced on average between five and seventeen years. Compare that to the 1985 average of 29 months.
- Robbery and financial crimes are the same: Many people have accused Wall Street professionals of being thieves that caused the financial collapse, but the comparison is not accurate. The psychology is very different from robbers who are face-to-face with their victims, confronting them as they break the law. For many individuals charged with white collar crimes, they often do not realize that they have crossed the line between legal and illegal.
- Professionals are not immune from prosecution: Even the New York Times wrote that one of the mysteries of the 2008 financial crisis was that so few were held accountable for their wrongdoings. In reality, 56 bankers and Wall Street financial employees were sentenced to prison for crimes related to the financial crisis.
- White collar enforcement will slow under President Trump: This is not true. In fact, the Department of Justice continues to bring high profile cases against individuals charged with white collar crimes.
As you can see, the penalties of a conviction are increasingly severe. White collar crimes are also federal crimes, charged and prosecuted by federal agents who have substantial experience in this area of the law. Defending against these charges requires the help of a defense lawyer with equal experience and focus.