A medical staff wearing a white uniform with both hands handcuffed.

Why Is It Hard to Prosecute White-Collar Crimes?

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.

A medical staff wearing a white uniform with both hands handcuffed.

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?

Confusing Transactions 

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. 

Economic Repercussions 

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.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Knowing how to choose a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, MN, can help you hire a lawyer who will prepare an effective defense strategy and fight for the best result from your case. One of the crucial tips when selecting a criminal defense lawyer is to vet those with relevant experience in cases like yours. You can only do this when you thoroughly understand the charges you are facing.
People anticipating an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, might ask, “What is the role of a defense attorney during an arrest?” A skilled criminal defense attorney can explain your options, ensure the police follow the rules, and protect your rights. The attorney will build a solid defense, talk to the prosecutor, and fight for your best interests.
Knowing when to hire a criminal lawyer for your case in Minnesota can help protect your constitutional rights and turn the odds in your favor. You should retain a criminal lawyer immediately after learning you are under investigation, get arrested, or are charged with a crime. Seasoned criminal lawyers understand the criminal justice system, can build a winning defense strategy, and aggressively push for a positive outcome of your case.