What Are the Penalties for White-Collar Crimes?

The exact definition of what constitutes a white-collar crime is still under debate. However, many people agree that nonviolent economic crime and corporate crimes, such as environmental law violations, fit under the category of white collar. Typically, those accused of committing such a crime are business and government professionals who have committed such crimes as fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, labor racketeering, copyright infringement, cybercrime, embezzlement, money laundering, forgery, and identity theft.

These crimes also result in different levels of punishment. Most white-collar crime sentences can lead to a combination of imprisonment, restitution, fines, disgorgement, community services, probation, or another sentence the judge finds suitable. However, after the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was passed, the punishments became much harsher.

Many people accused of white-collar crimes find the criminal justice system intimidating because they’ve never been charged before. Additionally, they may face civil liability suits in addition to criminal penalties, which can completely drain the bank.

The sentences will vary depending on the crime itself, its effect on other people, and any prior criminal record. Most people convicted, however, receive less than the maximum sentence. Courts will also often follow federal sentencing guidelines, which could differ in various jurisdictions. Judges will often start with the guidelines and follow their recommendations when deciding how much prison time to impose. These recommendations were put in place to ensure the sentences are uniform. Those without criminal records could be sentenced to probation or get a suspended jail sentence. They mostly depend on calculating the amount of the accused’s gain from the crime or the losses inflicted on other people.

For example, a credit card fraud conviction could either be a 1st-degree misdemeanor or a 3rd-degree felony. For the first, the accused could face up to 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. This is assuming the defendant only targeted one person for a less than $100 or committed two offenses in a 6-month period. For the second, which is a much more serious charge, the accused could face up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. In contrast, the Enron scandal, a huge fraud and conspiracy campaign led by CEO Jeffrey Skilling, resulting in Skilling’s conviction of 19 counts of conspiracy, fraud, false statements, and insider trading. He received 24 years and 4 months in prison and was fined $45 million for his crimes. The severity of his charge was the result of the number of people he affected. Lower-level employees of Enron were prevented from selling their stock because of 4101k restrictions, and many lost their life savings because of it.

In addition to criminal and civil cases, a person who commits a white-collar crime could face unforeseen social consequences. Because of the conviction, it may be difficult for a person accused of a white-collar crime to get employment. Additionally, they might encounter social stigma. Many of these offenses involve an element of deceit or dishonesty, which is a trait avoided by many employers and individuals in general. An immigrant who commits a white-collar crime could also be deported, even if he or she is a lawful permanent resident.

If you have been accused of a white-collar crime, you should seek legal counsel immediately. At Musca Law, our experienced Florida criminal defense attorneys can help. Avoid jail time and huge fines by having a skilled lawyer on your team. White-collar crime convictions can remain on your permanent record and follow you around for the rest of your personal and professional life. Let our top-notch lawyers fight aggressively to maintain your good name. We have more than 150 years of combined experience to put to use on your behalf. Call us at (888) 497-0216 or fill out our online form to schedule a free case consultation today.

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