Being accused of a white collar crime is embarrassing and frustrating. It’s hard to know who to trust and what to do. But a little bit of legal knowledge can keep you from making mistakes that can impact on your future. The term “white collar crime” usually refers to business-related financial crimes, such as fraud or embezzlement. These crimes violate federal laws and are typically charged in federal court. Penalties for white collar crime violations include:
- Jail time
- Restitution (returning money or property)
- Forfeiture (giving up money or property)
- Supervised release
- Home detention
You could be under investigation for a white collar crime if you:
- Receive a grand jury subpoena to produce business documents
- Are presented with a search warrant to seize your business records
- Get subpoenaed to testify at a grand jury investigation
- Receive a “target letter” or “subject letter” telling you you’re under investigation
- Are contacted by a state or federal investigator who wants to question you
Federal agencies involved in white collar crime investigations include:
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation
- United State Postal Service Officers
- United States Treasury Authorities
- Internal Revenue Service Investigators
- The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Services)
- The Securities and Exchange Commission
It’s very important not to give statements or otherwise cooperate with investigators until you’ve talked with an attorney. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everything will be all right if you just tell investigators everything. They are out to build a case against you and will use whatever you tell them or give them to your disadvantage.
You can always talk with investigators after you’ve had an opportunity to get legal advice, if your lawyer thinks it’s appropriate. If you’re being investigated for a white collar crime, it’s very important to talk to a competent criminal defense attorney with federal court experience as soon as possible. A white collar crime attorney may be able to convince investigators to close an investigation or remove you personally from investigation. Further along in the process, an experienced lawyer can talk with prosecutors to work out a plea bargain or other deal that keeps you out of jail and possibly prevents you from having a felony conviction.
Defending Against A White Collar Crime5>
Many of the defenses to a white collar crime are the ones that apply to any crime, and can include:
- Incapacity (you weren’t capable of doing it)
- Duress (someone else made you do it)
A common defense in white collar crimes is “entrapment” – a situation where government personnel coerce you into committing a criminal act that you otherwise wouldn’t have committed. Your attorney may be able to argue that you would have had no tendency to commit the crime you’re charged with without government enticement. A judge will look at the situation through your eyes in deciding whether there has been entrapment in your particular case. Another common defense in white collar crimes is absence of intent to commit a crime. Your lawyer may be able to convince prosecutors or a judge that you had no intention of committing a crime and didn’t know that your actions were criminal.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter. Also, the Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.