In the 1930’s the term “White Collar Crime” was first used to refer to non-violent crimes that were being prosecuted. Frequently crimes were charged as a white collar crime if a more serious, violent crime, wasn’t able to be proved. Over the years several crimes have fallen into this category.
What Are White Collar Crimes?
In California, white collar crimes fall under the prosecution of the District Attorney, Federal Government, or local prosecutor’s office. These crimes are mostly non-violent crimes involving money or property that have been entrusted into an employee’s hands. The most common white collar crime is embezzlement, which usually involves charging a person in an organization who is in a position of trust. Frequently these persons are accountants, bookkeepers, payroll accountants, and similar persons dealing with a company’s financial matters.
White collar crimes, like other types of crime, are charged the same. Persons allegedly accused of these types of crimes have the same protection and legal defense as in other crimes. The difference is that the legal theories and principles are more complicated and require vast amounts of paper and other documents as evidence. Many times the suspect of the criminal investigation will make what they consider an innocent statement, not realizing that this statement may seal their fate. Unless the alleged suspect makes a statement, the investigators aren’t able to show the intent or mental state required to press charges. Many times the alleged suspects are subpoenaed by a grand jury in order testify about any involvement in the particular white collar crime. In order to protect their rights, they should have proper legal representation by a white collar crime defense attorney.
The “Arrest to Expungement” Criminal Process
The punishments for white collar crimes can vary depending on the type. Depending on the seriousness of the fraud, or how complicated the illegal plan was, chances are likely the government will want to impose extensive prison time.
Whether a white collar crime is charged as a felony or misdemeanor, the process of how it’s treated is usually the same. The investigation of fraud cases usually take a significant period of time before the case is referred to prosecutors for criminal filing. Because of this, a defense attorney experienced with white collar crimes can intervene before charges are filed in an effort to reduce the charges or even stop the charges from being filed.
Once the investigation has been completed, the police normally will request an arrest warrant. If a judge decides that probable cause for the crime exists, the warrant will be issued. Once the warrant has been served and the person is in custody, they will remain there until they have posted bail.
The prosecutor will usually file a motion, as established in Penal Code Section 1275, which requires that the prosecutor inspect where the money is coming from that will be used to post bail. It stipulates that the bail money must not come from illegally obtained funds or from money associated with the alleged embezzlement or theft by false pretenses.
After the alleged suspect has posted bail and been released, the court will schedule a date for an arraignment, which is the hearing where the judge will formally let the alleged suspect know the charges against them in the complaint, which has been filed by the prosecutor. Once the charges have been given, the person is asked to enter a guilty or not guilty plea. If the plea is not guilty, the case proceeds to the next stage. During the arraignment, the bail will also be discussed.
Once the arraignment is over, if the case has been charged as a felony the judge will either set the case for an early disposition court or a preliminary hearing. If it’s charged as a misdemeanor, the judge will set it for pre-trial in order for the discovery process to begin.
With a felony, the preliminary hearing must happen within ten days after the arraignment. At this hearing, evidence will be provided and the judge will decide if there is enough probable cause to establish that a crime was committed. The judge will also decide if the person who has been charged is the alleged suspect who committed the white collar crime.
If the judge decides there is probable cause for the charge, the case will proceed to the felony arraignment phase ten days after the preliminary hearing has been completed. At the arraignment at the Superior Court the felony charges will be listed and the defendant is given their constitutional rights and formally given the charges against them. At this point the defendant enters another plea of guilty or not guilty. Bail will again be addressed, and a date will be set for trial within 60 says.
The next court appearance is what’s called a pre-trial conference, where the prosecution, the defense, and judge, meet and discuss the case. Plea negotiations and any additional discovery is shared between opposing counsels. It’s possible to resolve the case at this point, but otherwise it will move forward to the actual trial.
The jury trial is where 12 jurors decide if the charges are valid. Whether the case is charged as a misdemeanor or felony the defendant is entitled to a trial by jury. After all the admissible evidence has been presented, the jury will decide on the guilt or innocence of the person charged with the crime. In order for the person to be found guilty, all 12 jurors must unanimously agree, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime.
If found guilty, a sentencing trial will be set for the defendant, where their punishment will be imposed by the court.
If the jurors do not vote unanimously, the judge will determine the case to be hung, and at his discretion may either decide to retry the case or dismiss it.
If the jurors unanimously agree that the defendant did not commit the crime, or the prosecutor did not prove their case, the defendant will be found innocent, or not guilty, and the case will end.
If the verdict is guilty, the defendant’s case can be appealed to a higher court on legal or procedural grounds. If the conviction is upheld, after serving a certain amount of time and/or serving a probationary period, the defendant may request the charges be expunged. This means a judge can reverse their guilty verdict and discuss the case under Penal Code Section 1203.4.
Other Types of White Collar Crimes
Being charged with a white collar crime and being arrested or convicted can have devastating effects for a professional. Once the charges are filed, the government can immediately invoke forfeiture laws to take away the suspect’s home and property. The charges can also have significant impacts on the accreditation and licensing of the professional.
Other white collar crimes, and the applicable penal code section that deals with them, includes:
- Extortion - Penal Code Section 520
- Receiving Stolen Property - Penal Code Section 496(b)
- Forgery - Penal Code Section 484i
- Credit Card Fraud - 484e
- Embezzlement - Penal Code Section 487(a) or Penal Code Section 504
- Health care fraud
- Identity Theft - Penal Code Section 530.5(a)
- Extortion - Penal Code Section 518
- Workers Compensation Fraud
- Bribery - Penal Code Section 67 PC or Penal Code 68 PC
- Commercial burglary - Penal Code Section 459
- Insurance fraud - Penal Code Section 550
- Mail fraud - Penal Code Section 530.5(e)
- False Financial Statement - Penal Code Section 532a(1)
- Income tax fraud
- Computer Access and Fraud - Penal Code Section 502(c)
- Money laundering
- Perjury - Penal Code Section 118
- Insider trading
- Financial crimes
- Grand theft - Penal Code Section 487(a)
- Possession of fraudulent access cards
- Mortgage fraud
- Welfare Fraud - Welfare and Institutions Code Section 10890(C)(2)
White Collar Crime of Embezzlement
The white collar crime of embezzlement, which has increased in the last 10 years, is usually prosecuted by a District Attorney or United States Attorney. Embezzlement is committed by a person when they have been given the permission or responsibility to oversee the property or money of another person and then takes that money or property for their own use. This crime can be the theft of money by an employee at an accounting firm or a bank.
Like many crimes, embezzlement can either be charged as felony or misdemeanor. Penalties could include fines and restitution, jail, or even a prison sentence. As with other white collar crimes, for people charged with embezzlement it may be the first time they’ve been involved with the criminal justice system. Once an individual becomes aware they are being investigated by the government, it’s imperative that they hire a white collar criminal defense attorney as soon as possible in order for them to meet with investigators to convince them not to file the charges.
White Collar Crime of Bribery
The white collar crime of bribery is when a person illegally gives somebody else something of value, such as money or services, in order to encourage them to change their opinion or give you something in return that they would not normally give without being bribed. Both the person giving the bribe and the person receiving the bribe can be charge with the crime of bribery.
White Collar Computer Crime
Due to the advancement in technology, computer crimes have significantly increased in the past few years. A computer crime occurs when somebody accesses the Internet and sends a virus, hacks another person’s computer or network, or uses somebody else’s computer without having their permission.
White Collar Crime of Extortion
Extortion is committed by the use of fear or threat of violence toward somebody in order to take their property. It can occur whether the violence actually occurs or whether it’s just the threat of being harmed.
White Collar Crime of Forgery
Forgery is when somebody alters or creates some type of written object and then uses it in order to commit fraud. The object can any financial instrument such as a credit card or check.
White Collar Crime of Fraud
Fraud is committed when somebody knowingly misrepresents something in order to gain some type of benefit for themselves or for somebody else’s benefit. This type of white collar crime can happen if somebody falsifies a statement or object in order to gain valuable goods or services.
White Collar Crime of Insurance Fraud
Insurance fraud is often committed by business professionals, doctors, lawyers, chiropractors, and others who can make claims for damages or injuries that never really occurred. With this crime, the prosecutor’s goal is to prove the owner of the policy holder intended to defraud the insurance company in order to receive money they weren’t entitled to. Prosecutions in medical insurance fraud has also had a significant increase. Many times doctors and dentists have served prison terms after being convicted of such fraud against Medical and Dentical. Chiropractors also have been prosecuted for alleged false or misleading insurance billing. Crimes such as these are prosecuted by the Attorney General’s, District Attorney’s, or United States Attorney’s Office. Medical insurance fraud prosecutions normally begin when a search warrant is issued against the professional offices of a chiropractor, dentist, or doctor to produce documents. Many of these high profile medical fraud cases against medical professionals are prosecuted by a Medical Insurance Fraud Defense Attorney.
White Collar Crime of Larceny
Larceny is the taking of somebody else’s goods or property with the specific intent of not returning it to it’s rightful owner. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the crime. If the theft is under $400 it’s a misdemeanor; if over $400 it’s a felony.
White Collar Crime of Perjury
Perjury has recently been classified as a white collar crime. It’s committed when somebody intentionally lies under oath either written or orally. This can either be in a court by making a false statement under oath, or by making a written false statement when they understand the seriousness of the proceedings and lies anyway. Perjury is a felony and is punishable by up to 3 years in state prison.
White Collar Crime of Tax Evasion or Tax Fraud
The crime of tax evasion is when somebody intentionally fails to claim property or income of a certain value on their income tax return. This crime can be prosecuted either at the Federal or state level, and can result in lengthy prison sentences if convicted. If you think you’re being investigated for a white collar crime, or have been arrested and accused of a white collar crime, it’s imperative that you retain a white collar crime criminal defense attorney such as Sevens Legal, APC. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.
Criminal Defense Attorneys
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San Diego, CA 92103
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