Why is it hard to prosecute white-collar crimes? Generally, it’s hard to prosecute white-collar crimes because the alleged offenders bury their activities deep in confusing transactions. Proving intent in these crimes can be challenging because the offenders are usually senior managers and executives. These individuals often work with professional advisers, such as lawyers and accountants, who may aid their decision-making. They may do so with or without knowledge of the true nature of the underlying activity.
Other white-collar crimes are hard to prosecute due to difficulty in determining the liable parties, especially in cases involving large corporations. Economic ramifications of aggressive prosecution compel the government to look for other ways to penalize offenders. Whistleblowers are poorly incentivized, keeping them from reporting or even testifying in white-collar crime cases.
What Are White-Collar Crimes?
White-collar crimes are financially related crimes that do not involve violence. Perpetrators of these crimes are well-paid individuals who hold positions of authority or prestige. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), one of the agencies responsible for investigating these offenses, states that “deception, concealment, or breach of trust” are the main features of these crimes. Prosecutors often rely on whistleblowers and documented evidence to prosecute these crimes.
White-collar crimes are hard to prosecute, but fruitful prosecution is still possible. A white-collar crime conviction can result in harsh penalties, including fines, prosecution expenses, home detention, and imprisonment. These penalties can hurt your career, reputation, and family. Getting a white-collar crime lawyer involved right after you are suspected or charged with a white-collar crime can improve your chances of avoiding a conviction.
Federal vs. State White-Collar Crime Cases
Both federal and state courts can process white-collar crime cases. The nature of the crime, specific facts concerning how it happened, where it happened, and whether it involved a federal agency determines which court handles the case.
Federal courts usually handle white-collar crimes that transverse the state boundaries. They also handle those that involve federal agencies or large financial institutions. Bank fraud, counterfeiting, internet crimes, and money laundering are common examples of federal white-collar crimes.
State courts process white-collar crimes committed within state boundaries or those involving state agencies. You could face charges at the federal and state court simultaneously if your criminal act contravened both federal and state laws. Workers’ comp fraud, embezzlement, and mortgage fraud are some examples of state-level white-collar crimes.
Healthcare insurance fraud is an example of a white-collar crime charged at the federal and state level. In addition to fines and imprisonment, healthcare insurance fraud is one of the common reasons doctors lose their professional licenses. This crime occurs when medical practitioners send fraudulent claims to Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurers.
Get a professional license defense lawyer on your side immediately after you discover your licensing board is investigating you for insurance fraud or any other misconduct. The lawyer will walk you through the complaint process, compile evidence, interview witnesses, and aggressively defend you against any accusations.
Why Is It Hard to Prosecute White-Collar Crimes?
White-collar crimes usually involve complex financial transactions. Perpetrators are generally knowledgeable individuals conversant with the workings of the financial scene and loopholes they can use for financial gain. Helping a jury understand these confusing transactions is often a lengthy and arduous task. Consequently, prosecutors typically prefer to offer a plea deal rather than go to trial.
Difficulty in Proving Intention
Law Professor Samuel W. Buell of Duke University covers various legal issues regarding white-collar crimes in his book called “Capital Offenses.” According to Buell, context is crucial in white-collar crimes, and cases depend on whether the alleged perpetrators were aware that their actions were unlawful. He states that a typical defense in a corporate crime is that the alleged offender was unaware that he or she was committing a crime.
Proving intention gets even harder when individuals at the senior management level depend on professional advice to make their decision. An executive may break a law when acting on advice from his or her accountant or lawyer. In that scenario, it’s hard to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the executive was aware or should have been aware that his or her actions were illegal.
Difficulty in Determining Potentially Liable Parties
Criminal conduct involving an entire corporation may be hard to prosecute. Establishing the potentially at-fault parties in such cases is often tricky. Individuals who shoulder the most responsibility for the corporation may have little knowledge regarding its everyday operation.
Aggressive prosecution and punishment of a large organization can cause it to cease operating. The outcome is serious economic consequences for innocent workers and customers. The U.S. government has organized numerous deferred-prosecution agreements (DPAs) to prevent these economic consequences. DPAs involve an offending organization admitting wrongdoing, paying financial penalties, and taking specific measures to avoid similar misconduct in the future.
Poor Incentivization of Corporate Whistleblowers
Whistleblowers are an essential part of discovering and prosecuting white-collar crimes. Prosecutors rely on them for tip-offs and statements that could help prosecute these crimes. Corporate whistleblowers lack the motivation to report corporate crimes because of low incentives.
The Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer in White-Collar Crime Cases
Despite the challenges associated with prosecuting white-collar crimes, offenders still get charged and convicted. As such, if you are facing a white-collar crime charge in Minnesota, you might ask, “when should I hire a criminal defense attorney?” The consensus is that you should involve a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to increase your chances of having the charges reduced or dismissed altogether.
A criminal defense attorney knowledgeable about federal and state criminal laws will know how to navigate legal and financial hurdles in your case. The attorney will also know how to review documented evidence to identify the proof that may get your charges dismissed.
The defense attorney can represent you in court and present facts, proof, and arguments to challenge the prosecutor’s case. The attorney can also negotiate with the federal or state prosecutor for any restitution or plea deals that can significantly lower your penalties.