What is White Collar Crime?
Generally you think of white collar crime as things other than robbing a bank, hijacking a car, kidnapping…those are not white collar crimes.
White collar crimes generally refer to those things that are involved in some aspect of criminal activity within a business environment: Insider trading, bankruptcy fraud, those types of things are considered white collar crimes.
Blue Collar vs. White Collar Crime
White collar crimes generally are committed by people who historically wore white collar shirts and coats and ties and were in management. In the past, a white collar crime didn’t include use of a weapon and didn’t necessarily include jail time.
And blue collar jobs were described as those where the people wore actual blue work shirts and were generally more in a workforce position. Please note that these are just job descriptions to explain the history of a white collar job vs. a blue collar job and not a judgment of a position.
So that’s how historically that white collar crime delineation came about. Now white collar crimes tend to involve some aspect of business whether it be tax law, securities, bankruptcy, franchise, all of those types of areas where a person in a white collar job would work. White collar crime describes a crime committed without a weapon, but that is committed on paper or within a business environment.
In white collar crime there would be a violation of some aspect of those types of laws. And that happens more and more today. Because over the last 25 or 30 years there’s been a huge trend to criminalize things there’s a lot of things that might be wrong that you could get sued over, but you didn’t go to jail over them.
What’s trended over the last 25 to 35 years is turning a lot of that non-jail time type of white collar activity and turning everything into criminal conduct that could include jail time.
Bring in a Legal Specialist
So when you get into those highly specialized areas, I’ve always recommended to people either make sure that the lawyer you have either has a very specific knowledge and understanding and experience in that arena or that they bring onto the team a lawyer who is a specialist in that area.
So for instance if somebody is being sued for bankruptcy fraud, I shouldn’t say sued, I mean if they’re being charged for bankruptcy fraud then you want to make sure that you have on your team someone who is a specialist in bankruptcy law who can talk about the ins and outs of the particular statute within the bankruptcy code that you’re being accused of having violated. The same thing would be securities fraud, income tax fraud, even criminal violations of state regulatory laws.
Such as if you’re regulated by the department of professional regulation for insurance licensing, real estate licensing and they come in and charge you with some criminal violation of the state law regulating your particular industry.
Hire the Best Attorney vs. A Performer
Do you have somebody who knows that industry — white collar crime — on the team? Not just somebody that can go in and make spellbinding arguments before the jury in a criminal court but who knows the law in that arena and can seriously talk about your conduct and what that law was intended to prohibit.
So make sure you have a specialist on your team in that arena. I’ve seen it make all the difference in the world where a lawyer is talking about a subject matter and you realize that he really doesn’t know anything about it but the most basic things. So make sure you take that precaution. It may cost you a few more dollars but it may keep you out of jail.
Again, I’m Eric Lanigan with Lanigan and Lanigan attorneys in Winter Park Florida.