Getting charged with a white collar crime is incredibly serious, and if you are convicted, you are likely to suffer serious penalties. White collar crimes, which include fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, and more, are committed when an individual or organization unlawfully uses deception for financial gain.
Because “white collar crimes” is an umbrella term that encompasses so many criminal acts, the financial gain in question may be at the expense of big insurance companies (insurance fraud), federal organizations (tax evasion), commercial businesses, or individuals (credit card fraud).
White collar crimes tend to be less simple and straightforward when compared to crimes involving violence. This can make many white collar cases more complex, but it is still possible to defend against these charges.
Below are some common defense strategies that can be used successfully against white collar charges. It is important, however, to remember that every situation is different. An experienced defense lawyer gives you the best chance at crafting a defense that will earn you a positive outcome.
Focus on Poking Holes – Crimes involving money, businesses, and multiple transactions can produce tons of evidence and many documents to sort through. One way of defending your case is by disproving simple errors or poking holes in the prosecution’s argument. Using this method will make it easier to communicate with the jury, who may be overwhelmed by the amount of evidence and jargon that the prosecution presents.
Show Lack of Intent – Many white collar crimes, including different types of fraud or embezzlement, require the defendant to show criminal intent for a guilty conviction. If the prosecution cannot prove that you intended to commit a crime (for example, that you did not intend to deceive someone), then your charges may be dropped. You don’t even have to show lack of intent, but rather prevent prosecution from proving intent.
Demonstrate Lack of Knowledge – If multiple parties and organizations were involved, it may be possible that you were unaware that unlawful activity was occurring. Showing the prosecution that you did not know (or have the capacity to know) that you were participating in a crime may help in proving your lack of intention.
Coercion – If you forged a document after being coerced or forced by another individual, you may be able to use that coercion to help you in court.
Entrapment – Similar to coercion, entrapment occurs when a law enforcement official induces, coerces, or uses intimidating tactics against an individual to get them to commit a crime that they otherwise would not have committed. Note that this does not mean that the law enforcement official gives someone the opportunity to commit a crime. Threats, force, or fraud must be used for an entrapment defense to stick.
The Victims are Also Guilty – If your case involves working with a larger organization that is also committing a form of white collar crime, the other party may not be able to seek restitution and your charges may be dropped.
Statute of Limitations – Different states have time limits for victims to press charges or a file a lawsuit against a defendant. If the alleged crime was committed years ago and the statute of limitations has run out, legally you cannot be brought to trial.
Plea Bargain – Prosecutors may offer you a shortened sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. This is called a plea bargain, and may be used when a defendant wants to admit his or her guilt, or is facing a harsh sentence and is offered a good deal.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2016 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.