When you work in a white collar profession, you are expected to have a high level of integrity and honesty. The public wants to believe that you would never jeopardize their best interests or that of the company for which you work.
When you find yourself the target of accusations of professional wrongdoing, you need to take advantage of the opportunity to defend yourself. Your best defense can come from understanding what white collar crimes are in Texas and retaining a lawyer who has experience in representing clients accused of them.
What is White Collar Crime?
In Texas, white collar crime is defined as a crime that is non-violent in nature committed by people who work in professional, prestigious and higher salaried occupations. These people can include lawyers, accountants, bank loan officers and stock brokers. The goal of these offenses is to steal money or funds and use them for one’s personal benefit.
The term “white collar” came into existence in the 1930s, courtesy of criminologist Edwin Sutherland. Sutherland used this label to classify crimes that are committed by people who work in respectable, high-powered jobs and hold higher social statuses than blue collar workers.
Despite white collar crimes’ non-violent nature, they still leave behind victims who experience long-lasting and often far reaching damages. They also take advantage of the trust of the public and people who expect professional integrity and honesty from businesses with which they maintain contact.
Likewise, despite their non-violent nature, white collar crimes can carry with them some of the harshest penalties that Texas state law allows. If you are convicted of a white collar crime, you could face going to state or federal prison for years. You also may have to pay back tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to your victims and to society in general.
Examples of White Collar Crimes
Texas defines a wide scope of offenses as white collar crimes. Some of the more common ones that prosecutors take to court involve:
- Insider trading
- Securities fraud
- Healthcare fraud
- Anti-trust violations
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Internet fraud
- Tax evasion
They can also include crimes like:
- Corporate espionage
- Insurance fraud
- Wire and mail fraud
- Money laundering
- Telemarketer fraud
All of these offenses and other white collar crimes use fraud and deception as a means to steal people’s money or property and use it to the offender’s personal and financial advantage.
For that matter, white collar crimes can also be divided into two categories: individual and corporate. As its name implies, individual white collar crimes are committed by a single person or a single group of people. Examples include identity theft, hacking and counterfeiting.
Corporate white collar crime involves a business or agency spearheading the offense. The business allows for the theft or defrauding of clients. Examples of corporate white collar crime include money laundering and inside trading.
Moreover, the Internet now makes committing white collar crimes easier than ever before. White collar criminals can easily get online and defraud unsuspecting victims of their money, personal account information and bank details.
The Internet allows white collar criminals to prey on vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, and catch them off-guard. It takes little effort for these criminals to hack into people’s accounts, find out sensitive information about victims and use personal details to blackmail victims into paying out ransoms. Many times, white collar offenders hide behind anonymous usernames or handles and fake IP addresses.
How White Collar Crimes are Punished in Texas
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Because of how much damage white collar crimes can leave in their wake, they are actively pursued and prosecuted by Texas law enforcement and prosecutors. Depending on the nature of a white collar crime, it can be charged and prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony. Someone convicted of this kind of offense can face a myriad of punishments, including civil fines and jail time.
As a general rule, white collar crimes in Texas that result in less than $1500 in damage are often prosecuted as misdemeanors. For example, an offense that results in a loss of less than $50 is charged as a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500 in fines with no jail time.
However, a white collar crime in Texas that results in losses of $50 to $500 is charged as a Class B misdemeanor. The offender can face a fine of up to $2000 and a jail stint of up to 180 days.
Likewise, an offense that results in the loss of $500 to $1400 is chargeable as a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction results in a fine of up to $4000, a jail term of up to one year, or both.
Texas will charge a white collar crime as a felony if it results in losses that are equal to $1500 or greater. A crime that leads to a loss of $1500 to $20,000 is a state felony and punishable by 180 days to two years in jail, a fine of $10,000 or both.
Losses totaling $20,000 to $100,000 meet the criteria for a third degree felony charge. They can result in the offender being sentenced to two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
A second degree felony white collar crime, resulting in losses between $100,000 and $200,000, lead to punishments of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. White collar crimes involving the theft of more than $200,000 are first degree felonies, punishable by five to 99 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
A person convicted of a white collar crime can face steeper penalties if they:
- Have a prior criminal history
- Victimized a large number of people
- Defrauded or victimized the elderly
- Stole a particularly large sum of money
It should be noted as well that white collar criminals can also face federal charges in addition to those that the state of Texas levy against them. Federal convictions result in their own punishments that must be served in addition to those that a Texas state court metes.
Why Hire an Attorney?
If you are charged with a white collar crime, you need to launch an assertive and solid defense to avoid the variety of harsh penalties allowed in Texas. Your first move should be to hire an experienced white collar defense attorney to represent you.
Your attorney can either use evidence in the case to show your innocence or argue for why you should not face the worst penalties for your offense. They may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges against you dropped to a misdemeanor. Your lawyer may also ask the court for leniency and a lower sentence if the evidence is not enough to exonerate you fully.
Do not face white collar crime charges in Texas alone. Retain an assertive and knowledgeable white collar defense attorney to represent you today. Your lawyer can be a valuable ally in helping you avoid conviction or escaping from the full array of penalties that Texas allows for white collar crimes.