Long prison sentences are often equated with violent crimes like rape and murder. However, these crimes are not the only ones that can result in years spent behind bars. Non-violent crimes can also lead to years, even decades, spent in prison. Those convicted of crimes within one group of non-violent crimes, called white collar crimes, can find themselves serving prison terms of fifty or more years.
Critics of the sentencing guideline used for federal white collar crime convictions argue the penalties are too severe. On average, those convicted of fraud faced over a year in prison in 1995, according to a report in the Yale Law Journal. This number jumped to almost two years by 2005 and continues to increase.
White collar crimes can include commission of bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, identity theft, racketeering and fraud. Businesses and individuals can be accused of committing white collar crimes.
One of the more common white collar crimes is fraud. Although there are many types of fraud, all forms tend to focus on the use of deception for financial gain.
One form of fraud is securities fraud. This form often involves the exchange of investment information and is commonly referred to as "insider trading." One example of insider trading was the Martha Stewart case.
In this case, the business woman, made famous for her success in the domestic industry, took insider financial advice about stocks. Since the information was not yet available to the public, acting on these tips would be illegal. Based on this advice, Ms. Stewart sold her shares in a company and avoided the loss of almost $50,000. Ms. Stewart was convicted of fraud and sentenced to five months imprisonment.
Mortgage and insurance fraud are also fairly common allegations within this subsection of white collar crimes. This can include falsifying insurance claims by misstating the amount of loss.
Penalties associated with commission of a white collar crime can be severe. Potential penalties include both monetary fines and imprisonment. In addition to these criminal penalties, those convicted of white collar crimes can also have irreparable damage to their reputation.
Because of these wide reaching negative implications tied to white collar crimes, it is important to take these accusations and charges seriously. If you are charged with a white collar crime, contact an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation and better ensure your legal rights are protected.