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Penalties for White Collar Crime

White collar crime is a term that is applied to nonviolent crimes committed in business situations by individuals, groups or corporations for the purpose of financial gain. White collar crimes include, but are not limited to, money laundering, embezzlement, fraud (i.e. health care, telemarketing, insurance, tax, securities and commodities), bribery, forgery and counterfeiting. The most common white collar crime involves some type of fraud.

White collar crimes can be prosecuted on either the state or federal level, depending on what kind of law was broken. Penalties for white collar crime vary, but convictions usually result in jail time, large fines and restitution to the victims of the crime.

In federal cases, Sentencing Commission statistics show that the rates of incarceration for certain white collar crimes are greater than those for criminals who possess drugs or firearms. To illustrate this, the numbers show a 35.6 percent rate of incarceration for fraud; a 39.3 percent rate of incarceration for embezzlement; and a 29.2 percent rate of incarceration for forgery or counterfeiting.

Although penalties for white collar crime can result in sentences of up to 30 years in prison, it is up to the judge to decide the offender's fate. Sentences are usually lighter than the maximum sentences allowed for the crime. For example, the mean sentence for fraud is 12 months; embezzlement, 9.9 months; bribery, 16.2 months; tax offenses, 16.6 months; antitrust fraud, 12.7 months; and money laundering, 46.3 months.

Lenient imprisonment penalties for white collar crime may be to the criminal's benefit, but they often pay for their crime in other ways, forfeiting their assets, relinquishing incriminating information about personal and professional associates, and sacrificing their rights to further relationships with the government or corporate world. Perhaps the most damaging penalties of white collar crime involve the damage to the offender's reputation and loss of professional and personal credibility.

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