Are White Collar Crimes Felonies?

White collar crime sounds harmless — a person in business attire committing some kind of indiscretion that may end up with them being fired but won’t have a lasting effect on anyone else. This is wrong. White collar crime is treated very seriously and often prosecuted by the government resulting in long prison sentences and very expensive fines for those charged. 

Possible Punishments associated with White Collar Crime

Depending on the white collar crime committed, the punishment for that crime can vary greatly. Some crimes see those charged serving long prison sentences, while others may result in restitution or forfeiture of property. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can sometimes make a great difference in the sentence assigned to the crime. 

Imprisonment and Fines

Serving a prison sentence or being liable for millions of dollars in fines are the most severe punishments for white collar crime. For example, the state of New Jersey had the highest number of tax fraud cases in the United States in the year 2021 resulting in an average 14 month prison sentence with 63% of those charged serving prison time

The fines imposed for white collar crimes almost always depend on the severity of the crime and how much money was stolen during the crime. Fines can range from $1000 to well over one million dollars, these fines can also include paying for the cost of the prosecution of the crime or crimes. 

An extreme example would be Bernie Madoff who ripped thousands of people off to the tune of over $65 billion dollars. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution. 

Restitution and Forfeitures 

Restitution, or paying back the victim of the crime, is mandated in any white collar crime where the victim is identified. If the victim is deceased, that victim’s estate receives the restitution. 

Forfeiture of property happens when the government seizes the assets of a person accused of a white collar crime and holds them until the court proceedings are complete. 

The belief is that those assets — for example, luxury homes, cars and yachts — were acquired through crime. If the accused is found guilty, the seized property can be used to pay back victims or pay court costs. 

Home Detention and Community Confinement 

Home detention is often used for those accused of white collar crimes during the pre-trial phase of their criminal case whereas community confinement is used towards the end of a prison sentence. 

Home detention is strict and the accused is ordered to stay inside a home that has been approved by US Probation and most times by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  

A GPS device is attached to the person accused of the crime and strictly monitored. Any movement outside of the structure of the home must be approved and scheduled. 

Community confinement “…means residence in a community treatment center, halfway house, restitution center, mental health facility, alcohol or drug rehabilitation center, or other community center.” 

Community confinement is a type of supervised release that generally occurs at the end of a prison sentence or is used in conjunction with probation if a prison sentence is not assigned. 

Supervised Release 

Most of those found guilty of a white collar crime would opt for a type of supervised release in lieu of a prison sentence. Although a supervised release may have many “rules,” it is still better than going to federal prison. 

Those serving supervised release will be assigned a probation officer who will make sure that the conditions the court has placed on the accused are obeyed and that no further laws are broken. 

A defense attorney committed to your freedom is essential

Being found guilty of a white collar crime means a new reality for those charged. The severity of the punishment depends on the crime, but also on the representation you receive during the trial process. 

Securing a criminal defense attorney who knows what to expect in a white collar crime trial is essential to receiving a fair defense and achieving the best possible outcome. 

For over fifty years, The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot have committed themselves to providing a passionate defense of the accused, ensuring that their constitutional rights are upheld throughout the proceedings.

We encourage you to be the most prepared you can be when facing this type of situation. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, then the very first thing we recommend you do is secure legal counsel who has your best interests in mind when representing you. 
We’re passionate, committed, and effective. Don’t delay — Contact us today for your free and confidential consultation!