The possible penalties for white collar crime in Houston strikes fear in those who have been arrested on these charges. That is because a majority of people charged with these types of offenses have never been arrested or seen the inside of a courtroom before. The first thing that anyone in this situation needs to do is protect their rights by hiring a Houston criminal defense attorney.
White collar crime penalties encompass more than just criminal punishments. In some cases, the government or the victims of the illegal act will file civil lawsuits against the accused. However, a criminal lawyer can help the accused address all of these issues.
What Is a White Collar Crime?
A white collar crime is a non-violent offense that the perpetrator commits for financial gain in a business environment or governmental position. Types of white collar crimes include the following:
- Money laundering
- Ponzi schemes
- Insider trading
- Identity theft
- Copyright infringement
A Jail Sentence, A Fine or Both
The criminal penalties for white collar offenses may be a prison sentence or a fine. When warranted, some people receive both a prison sentence and a fine. The maximum sentence for white collar crimes can be very serious. However, many people receive a sentence that is shorter than the maximum.
How a Sentence Is Determined
The judge may be required to follow sentencing guidelines that have already been set for the jurisdiction. However, the judge may be at liberty to consider extenuating circumstances that are relevant to the case and use these to impose a sentence that is different than the one found in the guidelines.
Whether or not the accused has been convicted of a previous crime may be taken into account during sentencing. For example, if the person convicted does not have a long criminal history, the judge can sentence him or her to less jail time than the maximum. The sentence may also be suspended. If the convicted party gained financially in the process of committing a white collar crime, the judge may order him or her to forfeit this money in what is called “disgorgement.” Lastly, the person convicted may be ordered to pay restitution to the victims.
Some people receive probation instead of a jail sentence. Probation is a period of time when the individual will be monitored by a probation officer and will be required to follow certain rules. For example, there may be a curfew to follow, or the convicted person may not be allowed to leave the jurisdiction. Those who receive probation must follow the court’s terms and conditions to the letter so that they will not be accused of a probation violation. Otherwise, they may receive a more severe sentence for their offenses.
Another possibility is community service that people perform along with a shorter prison sentence or in lieu of prison time altogether. The fine may be reduced if they are given a period of time to serve the community. The type of work they will be required to perform may be related to the type of offense they are convicted of committing.
The consequences of being convicted of a white collar crime can reach beyond any penalties that people must pay in a criminal or civil capacity. For example, after they have served their time and paid restitution, they may have difficulties finding gainful employment because a conviction on a white collar crime breaches business ethics and trust.
If the accused party is a legal immigrant, a conviction on a white collar crime can place this person’s legal status in jeopardy. For example, the convicted person may be deported from the United States or denied the ability to become a U.S. citizen.