White Collar Criminal Defense
Although there has been some debate as to what qualifies as a white collar crime, the term today generally encompasses a variety of nonviolent crimes committed by business people, entrepreneurs, public officials and professionals through deception for the purpose of financial gain.
The phrase "white collar crime" was coined in 1939 during a speech given by Edwin Sutherland to the American Sociological Society. Sutherland defined the term as "crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation."
Many white collar crimes are especially difficult to prosecute because the perpetrators are sophisticated criminals who have attempted to conceal their activities through a series of complex transactions. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation
("FBI"), white collar crime is estimated to cost the United States more than $300 billion annually.
The most common white collar offenses include:
Computer and internet fraud
Credit card fraud
Health care fraud
Phone and telemarketing fraud
Trade secret theft
Although white collar criminal charges are usually brought against individuals, corporations may also be subject to sanctions for these types of offenses. The penalties for white collar offenses include fines, home detention, community confinement, cost of prosecution, forfeitures, restitution, supervised release and imprisonment. However, sanctions can be lessened if the defendant takes responsibility for the crime and assists the authorities in their investigation. Any defenses available to non-white collar defendants in criminal court are also available to those accused of white collar crimes.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions of Blakely v. Washington and United States v. Booker are likely to have a significant impact on Courts confronting economic and white collar crimes. The punishment for these types of federal criminal offenses is driven by a calculation of factors under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The Guidelines calculations have now been relegated to merely one of several components of federal sentencing which is now governed by an application of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). However, many federal courts continue to adhere to the Guidelines to a significant extent in determining an ultimate sentence. Therefore, white collar crime cases and economic crime cases need to be handled in such a way that issues of loss and restitution are at the forefront of the overall defense strategy.
White collar crimes can be difficult to prosecute because:
- They are often highly complex.
- They are usually quite document intensive.
- They must often be proved by circumstantial evidence.
- The prosecutor must prove the defendant’s intent to commit crime.
- The investigation often takes a long time.
- The investigation usually involves a Grand Jury which infrequently meets.
- The defendant often claims that someone else did the crime.
- There is oftentimes no human victim.
- A defendant with no prior criminal history may get little or no prison time.
Agencies participating in the enforcement of federal white collar crime legislation include the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Secret Service, U.S. Customs, the Environmental Protection Agency, Homeland Security, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Most federal agencies have a criminal investigative division (“CID”) authorized to conduct criminal investigations. White collar crimes can oftentimes be prosecuted at both the federal and state level.
Internal investigations are becoming a necessity for a growing number of companies. Alleged misconduct which has the potential to give rise to possible corporate criminal liability requires the engagement of an astute white collar law firm which knows how to properly conduct such an internal investigation. Handling waiver of privilege issues, limiting document production requests, properly interviewing and counseling employees, obtaining separate counsel for individuals who may be in harm’s way, entering joint defense agreements ("JDAs”), knowing the prosecution factors set forth in the U.S. Attorney’s Manual and
McNulty Memo and understanding the expectations of prosecutors, are but a few of the important aspects of such an investigation. Recent developments with corporations such as Tyco, Enron and WorldCom have brought the importance of corporate governance and regulatory compliance to the forefront of director and officer responsibility.
The Joe Griffith Law Firm provides a complete range of white collar defense services including internal investigations, defending corporations and individuals in grand jury investigations and trials, civil litigation and administrative enforcement actions. We also assist in managing responses to search warrants and subpoenas, document production, complex state and federal prosecutions and seizure cases.
A prosecution for a white collar crime can lead to more than just criminal penalties. Many white collar offenses may give rise to civil lawsuits, brought either by the federal or state government, or by the victims of the offense. Any civil liability imposed as a result of these suits is in addition to, and not a substitute for, the penalties imposed in the criminal case. An experienced white collar crime attorney can give specific advice on the possible civil and administrative liability in a particular case, including, but not limited to, damages claims, forfeitures, debarments and exclusions. We can deftly help clients navigate the always murky waters created by parallel civil and criminal proceedings.
The white collar crime attorneys at the Joe Griffith Law Firm, LLC have counseled and represented corporations and individuals in a full spectrum of industries and professions. We regularly counsel corporate clients concerning pre-indictment white collar investigations, and we have frequently been able to have such investigations discretely terminated without charges being brought, or have otherwise minimized our clients’ criminal exposure.
We understand that as a professional, you have worked long and hard to become successful, and having your name associated with a criminal investigation or hearing can be humiliating and very difficult to overcome. If you have been accused of
a white collar crime, we will assist you through the process in our tireless efforts to keep you from incarceration and let you get back to business as usual as quickly as possible.
Call the Joe Griffith Law Firm, LLC to help with your white collar crime questions and concerns. We will fight to protect your interests to the fullest extent allowed under the law. Call us at 843-225-5563 or contact us via our
< Back to Practice Areas