Theft / White Collar Crimes

Criminal law defines the different categories of crimes and is the body of both state and federal rules that prohibit certain behaviors. These behaviors would involve causing harm to society either as a whole, to specific groups, or individuals. If found guilty of committing a crime, you can be prosecuted in a criminal court.

Today, criminal behavior and certain criminal trials have become highly publicized. Due to these high profile cases continually appearing in the media, turning into TV shows, and even becoming major-motion movies, people have begun to think they are well-informed on the different categories of crimes. The law is not that simple; however, and two crimes often misunderstood are theft and white collar crimes.

White Collar Crimes

In 1939, the term ‘white-collar’ crime was coined and is now a name for a full range of frauds committed by government officials as well as business professionals. The crimes under ‘white-collar’ are committed through concealment, deceit, violation of trust, and do not necessarily include the threat of violence or physical force.

The motivation behind a white-collar crime is to make a financial gain. These crimes are committed in the hopes of obtaining or to avoid the loss of property, money, services, or to secure a business advantage. There are always victims involved with the white-collar crime, and they can be destroyed by the actions of the criminal.

The victims of white-collar crimes can be a family, company, business, or corporation. The scam or crime committed against them could wipe out a savings account, or cost corporate investors billions of dollars. The loss suffered has the potential to devastate the victim. Fraud schemes performed under the white-collar crime title are becoming more sophisticated, and some have even gained the attention of the FBI.

White-collar crimes are non-violent crimes that will directly or indirectly allow the criminal to make a financial gain. A person or persons accused of these illegal activities are generally involved with a financial business or the government. The category of white-collar crimes can also include individuals or small groups, and some of these may not even know they have broken the law. State and federal governments have an enormous body of law revolving around financial crimes, which makes it difficult for some to understand and follow.

White-collar crimes do not have a specific definition on the law books, and they were coined this name by Edwin Sutherland, a sociologist in 1939 when he gave a speech before the American Sociological Society in Philadelphia. He used this term when talking about how police focus their attention on the ‘lower class’ and ignore the actions or crimes being committed by businesses and professional men. He referred to these people as captains of finance and industry and merchant princes. These ‘robber barons,’ he described were the ‘white-collar’ criminals of the nineteenth century.

Sutherland’s ideas were used to form the laws regarding white-collar and financial crimes to this day. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) has simplified the definition of these crimes as though involving; stealing, cheating, and lying.

Types of White Collar Crimes

White-collar crime covers a wide variety of crimes, but one thing they all have in common is that they are committed to gain assets or money. Typical forms of these crimes include bribes, insider trading, forgery, and fraud. The white-collar crime is hard to prosecute as the supposed criminal often takes sophisticated steps to make sure the illegal activity is hard to find. Some of the standard types of white-collar crimes are:

  • Insider trading is a form of fraud, though not all insider trading is illegal. This form of trading is against the law if a person does the transaction of securities (selling or purchasing stocks), or a small group of people inside a company, have specialized knowledge that has not been made available to others.
  • Forgery is when a check, contract, or other document is altered to change the possession or to falsify the information of such an item. The alteration is done to defraud the recipient of the material or to injure them. Examples would be creating and possessing falsified art or forging checks.
  • Fraud consists of misrepresenting facts with the intent to gain something in return. There are generally four elements to this crime, including:

Making a statement of a fact that is known to be false.

You are intentionally making a false statement.

The victim of the crime believed what is being stated, relied on the statement to make an action which resulted in them losing something of value based on the believed statement.

  • Bribery is committed if a person uses something of value to influence another to act in a particular manner, to make specific decisions, or to express designated opinions. The most common form is one offers to pay money to someone in authority to make them do something or to stop them from doing something. Both the acceptance or the making of a bribe is illegal.

The federal government prosecutes and investigates people for committing white-collar crimes every year. Many are charged that are not even aware they have committed something illegal.

Penalties for Committing White-Collar Crimes

White-collar crime penalties vary a lot and depend on the type of crime committed, and the circumstances surrounding the crime. When facing criminal charges for a white-collar crime chance is you have never been charged with a crime before, and you will find the criminal justice system very scary. The penalties for these crimes can include restitution, fines, probation, community service, or imprisonment. You will want a strong legal defense when facing these charges.

If the crime is determined to be serious enough, you may be facing time in prison for years. Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that resulted in increasing oversight in corporate responsibility and now demands financial disclosures. This act was implemented to stop large scale white collar crime. The results are also that penalties for white-collar crimes are now increased for those guilty of mail or wire fraud.

Judges often find it challenging to decide an appropriate punishment for a white-collar crime as most defendants do not have a previous problem with the law. Another factor the judge has to consider is the crime is unlikely to be repeated. The court is faced with having to consider the seriousness of the crime and how they can protect the public, deter further criminal conduct, yet avoid sentencing disparities among defendants charged with similar crimes. The Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin are ready to help defend your rights when facing white-collar crime charges.

Defense Against White-Collar Crime Charges

The most common charges for a white-collar crime include money laundering, computer/internet crimes, embezzlement, fraud, and tax evasion. These types of crimes are all unique in their circumstances, and each requires a different criminal defense team strategy. Some of the strategies will include:

  • Entrapment is a common defense and occurs when law enforcement suspects someone or a group of illegal activity. Their suspicion will lead them to set up a sting operation to catch these persons. The set up cannot involve inducing the criminal activity, and if the officials provoke or cause the illegal activity, it is considered entrapment. It is a tough defense, but an experienced defense attorney will show the defendant would not have committed the act had it not been for the actions of the law officials.
  • Incapacity defense is showing the person charged could not have physically or mentally committed the act being charged with and does not understand or comprehend the alleged criminal act.
  • Plea agreement defense can be used against a defendant when the evidence of a said crime is overwhelming. In these cases, you can plead guilty, usually to lesser charges to avoid going to trial. If your attorney can show you are fully cooperating with the authorities, you have the chance of receiving a lighter sentence.
  • Lack of intent can be used as a defense as most white-collar crimes require the prosecutors prove you acted with criminal intent. Examples would be if you made an unintentional mistake on your taxes, the prosecutor would have to show you were attempting tax fraud.
  • Non-fraudulent statements can be used as a defense when you are wrongly accused of giving false information to the accusing party. You and your attorney would be able to prove your accuser acted unreasonably simply by an opinion you've expressed.
  • Intoxication can be proven in some cases as a defense for your actions. If you and your attorney can prove you were not in full control of your actions at the time of the crime, it can be used in your defense to those charges. In some cases this defense can be used as a complete defense; in others, it can be used as a means to bargain for lesser charges.

The white-collar crime does not often involve physical harm, but typically results in significant financial injury to an organization, business, family, or an individual. The courts consider this harm when taking into account how a person should be sentenced if found guilty of the crime. The sentence severity will depend on the individual case and the circumstances surrounding the events of the crime.

Theft Crimes

A theft crime involves the unauthorized taking of someone else’s property with the intent to deny them access to it permanently. There are typically three categories of theft crimes; embezzlement, pretenses, and larceny.

  • Embezzlement consists of the taking of property fraudulently from someone who has the lawful possession of the said property. One example would be a banker taking money from one or more his customers
  • False Pretenses involve falsely representing a fact to gain the property of another

These two crimes have recently been incorporated into the broader crime of larceny. Larceny, or theft crimes, consists of a variety of offenses committed involving property. The crimes under this term are broken down further into robbery, auto theft, shoplifting, and burglary.

Common Theft Crimes

The most commonly committed theft crime is larceny. Most states have individual larceny statues, and others refer to larceny as ‘general theft.’ The taking of someone else’s property with the intent to deprive that property from them permanently is an act of larceny.

A more severe form of larceny is called robbery, and this crime involves the use of force. Robbery can be considered ‘larceny of another by force.’ Violence is typically the main component with an act of robbery, and a defendant in these cases can expect much more severe punishments if found guilty. There are extreme cases where the act of robbery goes too far and becomes another crime- felony murder. These cases are where the choice of weapon used with force kills the victim during the act of the robbery.

A lesser form of larceny, or theft crime, is shoplifting. Committing the crime of shoplifting is different from general larceny or robbery as it is not committed against another individual, but from a retail establishment without their consent. Some states have separate statues in place for shoplifting convictions, and others place them under the same as larceny. This crime is often treated as a lesser crime under the discretion of the judge. The prosecution will have to prove the merchandise was taken, and there was an intent to deprive the store of the items.

The larceny or theft crime of an auto has been placed under special statues in many states. Auto theft is a significant problem in many parts of the country and punishments when convicted of these crimes are becoming more severe. When convicted of stealing, or even attempting to steal a car, you could be facing a much harsher sentence, including longer prison times.

Burglary is a specific theft crime that continues to evolve over the years. Earlier a conviction of burglary required the prosecutor to prove the defendant entered a property unlawfully with the intent to commit a crime. The definition has now changed as the earlier one limited convictions for burglary to only those involving someone illegally entering a home, and did not include office buildings, garages, or other structures. The earlier definition also stated that the crime was committed during the night when it was dark.

Due to the limits of the earlier definition, most states have expanded the meaning of burglary to a more broad application. Burglary is now defined as the unlawful entry of any structure with the intent to commit a crime.

Penalties for Theft Crimes

Theft crime penalties can range from the severe down to minor as there are many factors taken into consideration. These factors will mean the difference between several years in prison, which will make finding suitable employment difficult or paying a small fine.

Factors that can determine the length of a sentence are the type and value of the property taken. Each of the different terms under theft crime; looting, robbery, shoplifting, larceny, embezzlement, or burglary involve varying amounts of property and will mean different sentences.

Whether the theft crime is classified as a petty, grand, or grand felony, the dollar amount of the property taken will determine if the crime was minor, or major. Minor offenses are considered misdemeanors, and major crimes are felonies.

There can still be significant penalties, even in petty theft if the offender has repeatedly committed crimes. The Three Strike rule in California will impose a more severe sentence under this rule. Regardless of the type of theft, the defendant’s past criminal history will be taken into consideration when sentencing is imposed.

Defense Against Theft Crimes Charges

When accused of larceny, or a theft crime, there are powerful defenses available to counter the charges. The prosecutor will have to prove every element of the crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt. If you and your attorney can cast doubt, then the prosecutor's case may fall apart, and you will receive an acquittal. These are some of the different defense approaches you and your attorney may use:

  • Entrapment occurs when you are encouraged or induced to commit a crime; you usually would not perform. If you have no history of performing acts you are accused of, and only performed the act under encouragement or the entrapping party, you can be found not guilty.
  • Duress occurs when you are forced to commit a crime through the threat of force or blackmail. If you can prove this claim, you will not be held responsible for the act.
  • Belief of Ownership is when you honestly and in good-faith believed you own a piece of property or have the right to use the property. Even if the belief is not valid, if you can prove you had an honest belief in the ownership, you will not be held responsible for taking the property.
  • Consent is when the property owner allows you to take the property. This form of a theft crime can occur in different contexts. One situation may be someone asking you to take the property so that they can make an insurance claim for the loss. In this case, you have not committed a theft crime as you had consent from the owner to take the item. However, this theft may make you guilty of insurance fraud. Another situation could be a property owner thinks you might take a piece of property. In this event, the owner creates a situation to take the item to test their belief.

There are several defenses against a theft crime. Discuss your options with the attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin if you are facing charges of a theft crime.

Find a Beverly Hills Criminal Attorney Near Me

Facing charges of a theft crime can impact your future. You need strong legal counsel provided by the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin. Call our office today at 323-464-6700 and discuss your options to protect your future. The law is complex, and you will want an experienced attorney to help reduce or eliminate these charges.