Not only is your job and reputation on the line, but if convicted you face the possibility of steep fines and even prison time.
In addition to criminal charges, persons accused of white collar offenses often face civil lawsuits too. These civil cases are usually brought by the victims of the crime, the government or both, and seek to recover any financial losses caused by the defendant's illegal actions. Any penalties awarded in civil court are in addition to the fines and punishments given in criminal sentencing court.
The possibility of civil litigation on top of criminal prosecution, coupled with the unreliable nature of federal sentencing guidelines, makes white collar crimes notoriously complicated cases. If you have been charged with a white collar crime, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense law firm as soon as possible to discuss your case, specifically a firm specializing in white collar and nonviolent offenses.
Get answers from experienced Houston white collar defense attorney Neal Davis.
Deciding on an appropriate punishment for a white collar crime conviction is determined on a case-by-case basis and dependant on certain individual circumstances. These five main sentencing factors include:
What is the maximum punishment allowed by state or local sentencing guidelines? Judges use these federal guidelines and state laws to determine an appropriate penalty for any given crime. Most defendants can receive a lesser sentence when properly represented by an experienced white collar defense attorney.
Does the defendant have a prior criminal record, or are they a first-time offender? Being a repeat offender - whether the past crime relates to the current charge or not - often results in harsher penalties from a judge. First-time offenders, on the other hand, may be able to negotiate for a lighter sentence.
Was the white collar crime in question a misdemeanor or felony? Certain state and local guidelines regulate what penalties judges can give based on the seriousness of the offense. For instance, a violent crime like homicide or aggravated assault will earn a much more severe punishment than a non-violent or minor offences like shoplifting.
Did any mitigating circumstances play a role? Certain contributing factors may make a judge more lenient during sentencing, such as if the defendant recently experienced a major life crisis like losing a loved one or their job. The role the defendant played in the crime (whether they were the central figure or an accomplice) as well as if another person was injured due to their actions may also be taken into account.
Is the crime attracting attention from the public or media? Although the American justice system is supposed to uphold the law fairly, societal pressure often plays a role in criminal cases. For example, judges, law enforcement and elected officials want to appear harsh on certain crimes (like child pornagraphy or drug offenses), therefore they may apply stricter punishments to these offenders than is necessary.
Each year, the United States Sentencing Commission collects data regarding federal sentencing decisions. Here are a few interesting white-collar sentencing statistics from their "Overview of Federal Criminal Cases, Fiscal Year 2015":
|Primary Offense||Mean Months||Median Months||Number of Offenders|
While judges use federal and state sentencing guidelines to determine an appropriate punishment for a white-collar offense, these guidelines are increasingly being called into question by lawmakers and bar associations for being unfair and, in the words of one federal judge, "just too goddamn severe." People on the other side, however, say white collar sentences are too lenient and that white collar criminals "get off easy."
If you or a loved one have been charged with a white collar offense or are being investigated, it is urgent you contact a criminal defense attorney with experience handling white-collar cases immediately. At the Neal Davis Law Firm, we will build a strong defense and skillfully negotiate a lower penalty during sentencing if convicted. For nearly 20 years, Neal Davis has successfully defended clients in Texas and federal courts in all types of white collar cases and other legal matters - including theft, tax evasion, securities and financial schemes, fraud and racketeering.
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