The American legal system is quite complex, especially to those without much experience or expertise in legal matters. When hearing about legal cases or getting involved with legal matters of your own, you might hear terms and phrases that don’t sound too familiar or you’re not quite sure about.
‘White collar crime‘ is one of those phrases, and a lot of people aren’t exactly sure what it means. This guide will cover some commonly asked questions about white collar crimes to help you develop a better understanding of what they are and how they’re defined.
What exactly is a white collar crime?
The phrase ‘white collar crime’ is quite a broad term that can actually be used to cover a wide range of crimes. Typically, white collar crimes involve some form of fraud or deceit which is usually designed to allow the criminal to receive some sort of financial advantage.
What are some examples of white collar crimes?
Examples of white collar crimes include financial fraud, blackmail, embezzlement, racketeering, unemployment fraud, counterfeiting, bribery, forgery, or money laundering. This list is not exhaustive, and many other types of crime can fall into the broad category of white collar crimes.
What makes white collar crimes different from other types of crimes?
One of the main ways in which we can differentiate white collar crimes from other kinds of crimes is in their intent and action. White collar crimes don’t usually involve any kind of physical violence or use of illegal substances like drugs. Instead, they’re all about breaking trust or using trickery and deceit to help the criminal achieve their goals.
We can also look at the people who commit these kinds of crimes for a key difference; those who commit violent crimes can come from all walks of life, but those who commit white collar crimes are usually employed in respectable jobs and work with perfectly legal businesses.
Where does the term ‘white collar crime’ come from?
Many Americans are familiar with the term ‘white collar’, which is used to describe workers who have highly skilled jobs and earn above average salaries. White collar workers are known for wearing suits and ties in their professions and can work in offices, accounting, legal work, and so on.
The term ‘white collar crime’ plays on this association by describing crimes that can be committed by these kinds of professionals. It was first coined back in 1939 by criminologist and sociologist, Edwin Sutherland. Sutherland argued that white collar criminals were less dangerous than other criminals and shouldn’t be punished as harshly.
Over time, Sutherland’s phrase has remained but our attitude towards white collar crimes and the general definition of the phrase has slowly changed. These days, the term is used to cover a huge range of crimes committed by business professionals either at work or outside of work.
Who are white collar criminals?
White collar criminals tend to be respected and admired members of the community, often with a strong educational background, a good job, a decent salary, and the ability to afford good lawyers, which can make prosecuting them more difficult in some situations.
What are the effects of white collar crimes?
It’s easy to see and understand the effects of crimes like murder, drug dealing, or drinking and driving, but the effects of white collar crime, while not as violent, can still be devastating in a range of ways.
They may involve businesses being forced to close, people losing their jobs, families breaking apart, pensions and retirement funds being lost, identities being stolen, charitable money not going to its intended locations, and so on.
What are some possible punishments for white collar crimes?
People who find themselves accused of white collar crimes could face severe punishments. Even though many arguments have been made to say that white collar criminals shouldn’t have such severe sentences as violent criminals, many arguments have also been made in the other direction, stating that these criminals ruin lives and do a lot of damage to businesses and communities, so should be punished accordingly.
White collar criminals can receive long prison sentences, but one key difference is that they may be sent to a minimum-security prison, rather than a maximum-security prison, so will have a more comfortable prison life with access to more features and amenities like the internet and TV.
Understanding white collar crime can seem quite difficult at first, but hopefully this guide has helped to shed some light on the matter.