In the criminal justice system, we have state and federal crimes, infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. We also have capital felonies and white-collar crimes. For the purposes of this article, we’re shedding light on “white-collar crimes,” what they are and what sets them apart from other crimes.
When you hear the term “white-collar,” you probably think of a man in a white-collared shirt and a business suit, and for good reason – the image you got in your mind was probably exactly what the originator of the term intended.
White-Collar Crime Defined
According to the Legal Information Institute, “White-collar crime generally encompasses a variety of nonviolent crimes usually committed in commercial situations for financial gain.”
White-collar crimes include but are not limited to:
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Securities fraud
- Tax evasion
- Money laundering
- Computer fraud
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), white-collar crime has to do with a full range of frauds that are committed by business and government professionals. Such crimes are unique; they are characterized by fraud, concealment, deceit, and a violation of trust, however, they’re not dependent on physical force or threats of violence.
“These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three). Today’s fraud schemes are more sophisticated than ever, and the FBI is dedicated to using its skills to track down the culprits and stop scams before they start,” according to the FBI.
Are White-Collar Crimes State or Federal?
White-collar crimes can be a violation of state or federal law. Sometimes, they are a violation of both. In that case, the state and federal prosecutors will look at the case and decide whether to press charges in the state or federal court. Generally, when a white-collar crime violates state and federal law and it’s prosecuted on the federal level, the penalties are harsher than if the crime was prosecuted on the state level.