The term “white-collar crime” is one that you may have heard, but it doesn’t really describe what this classification means or includes.  You may also wonder if there is a different expectation as to punishment for these types of crimes—are they different than other crimes?

White-collar crime basically refers to crimes committed by professionals or in a professional capacity.  In a nutshell, it deals with crimes associated with lying, cheating, and stealing.  As for differences in punishment, Illinois, like most states, assign punishment relative to the severity of the crime.  It is safe to assume that violent crime carries a more severe punishment than something like check fraud.  However, white-collar crimes can be so devastating that the potential sentence could be life long.

Forbes magazine recently reported about just such a case.  A company called A&O Life Fund was found responsible for defrauding investors to the sum of $100 million.  Using federal sentencing guidelines, the federal prosecutor recommended a sentence of 125 years in prison for one of the defendants.  In actuality, the offenders received between 45 and 60 years in prison, but this punishment is far more severe than one would imagine for a non-violent crime.

Types of White-Collar Crimes

White-collar crime is not a formal legal classification, but the following offenses are examples:  bribery, computer crimes, embezzlement, false statements, fraud, obstruction of justice, perjury, racketeering, securities fraud, insider trading, and tax crimes.

These crimes are illegal under both federal and Illinois state law.  This is an important point because violation of federal law enables the FBI to become involved.  Investigating white-collar crime can be a lengthy and involved process.  Given the complexity of the investigation, it is equally true that the defense to such a crime is also complex.

Defenses to White-Collar Crimes

Like all crimes, there are applicable defenses to white-collar crime.  These range from government entrapment to the “rogue” agent defense.  Since the investigation is usually lengthy and complex, there are many defenses that can be raised to challenge the legality of the investigation and the means used by law enforcement.

These could be Fourth Amendment violations stemming from illegal searches or seizures that would prohibit the government from admitting certain evidence against the defendant at trial.

Businesses may be accused of white-collar crime when it was merely an employee who acted illegally.  In this instance, the business may be able to assert that it had no knowledge of the crime and the employee was acting of his own accord.  Businesses can also defer liability if they assert that once wrongdoing was discovered, they did everything they could to correct it.

Given the non-violent nature of white-collar crime, the investigation and defense of such crimes is one that involves a keen eye for detail and superior knowledge of the law.  Potential evidence is likely found in documents, communications, or various transactions and must be tied to criminal activity in a very specific way.

Do not leave your fate to chance.  With the potential risk of decades in prison and extraordinary fines, defending against white-collar crime requires a competent and savvy legal team.  Seek the advice and counsel of a qualified Illinois Defense Attorney immediately.