White-collar criminal charges are a complex and evolving area of the law. “White-collar crime” is an odd category – it normally refers to crimes by people who are slightly more affluent – those who wear a “white collar” to work. Perhaps white collar cases are best defined as what they aren't – drug cases, gun cases, or violent crime. They generally involve fraud or public corruption.
There's a lot of information on our webpage about white collar crimes and how they work. Please, spend some time clicking around and learning.
The Kinds of White Collar Crimes
For more information about specific kinds of white collar cases, please see these specific pages on this site:
- Bankruptcy Fraud
- Export Control Act Violations
- Health Care Fraud
- Real Estate Fraud
- Immigration Fraud
- Tax Crimes
- Internet and Computer Crimes
- Securities Crimes
- Commodities Crimes
This page contains more general information about white collar cases – but the more specific information about the specific charges present in any white collar case are also important to look at.
WHITE COLLAR PROCEDURE
The procedures that the court or government will follow in a white collar case are the same – for the most part – as the procedures in any federal case. If you're concerned about a white collar case, you'd do well to learn about how federal criminal cases work generally.
For information about cases that have already been charged – where the prosecutor has already filed charges or a grand jury has issued an indictment, this page should answer any questions about white collar criminal procedure.
If charges haven't been filed, this page should answer any questions about white collar government investigations.
If you aren't sure whether you've been charged with a federal crime, the information on this page may help.
THE STAKES IN A WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL CASE
These cases are serious. Prosecutors seek significant prison time for white-collar crimes. The federal sentencing guidelines for fraud, for example, often call for massive sentences for people who are convicted of federal criminal charges.
It may have been that in a white-collar criminal case a person could expect a sentence of probation. Those days are long past – especially in federal court. Now prison sentences are routine, and very significant sentences are not surprising.
THE MOST FREQUENT ISSUE IN A WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL CASE
Often, the most important issue in a white-collar case is what the person who was involved in the case was thinking at important moments in the case – that is to say, these cases turn, often, on what the person's intent was. If their intent was to do lie or deceive, the case can be worse. But, at the same time, everyone makes mistakes. Often in a white-collar case, if you can prove that what happened was a mistake it can be the best defense available.
Being charged with a white-collar crime is a terrifying thing. Your future, your family, and your reputation are all in jeopardy. Many people charged with a white-collar crime go through something like the stages of grief – they find themselves angry and depressed. Sometimes folks in this situation try to ignore their situation in hopes that it will go away while they aren't paying attention. Unfortunately, this approach rarely works.
Changes in White Collar Crimes
Congress has been aggressive in creating new federal crimes. Each time it does, a member of Congress can go home and tell his or her constituents that he or she is tough on crime. This means that the number of federal criminal charges has ballooned in recent years.
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