We Vigorously Defend White Collar Crimes

White Collar CrimeIf you’ve been arrested or are under investigation for a corporate crime in St. Petersburg or the Tampa Bay area, it is imperative you seek legal advice from a white collar crime attorney as soon as possible. Due to the complex nature of these crimes, only an attorney with extensive knowledge of the law and prosecution strategies can effectively handle these cases. Flint Law will advise you from the initial investigation to a final verdict and sentencing if necessary.

Most people feel helpless when they are under investigation. If you are not consulting an experienced white collar crime attorney, you may be unknowingly waiving legal protections and providing details that could help get yourself convicted. For example, when government agents show up at your door to “ask a few questions,” whatever you tell them can be used as an admission against you. Just as or perhaps even worse, if you lie or are not completely honest, that can also be a crime. Some people believe that if law enforcement does not read them the Miranda Rights, their statements can’t be used against them. Not true. Law enforcement is only required to read Miranda Rights if you are “in custody,” which is itself a vague concept, and you are being interrogated. The best course of action to take when government agents come knocking is to get a business card, say that you do not wish to speak with them, and that your lawyer will be calling them.

What is a White Collar Crime?

Sometimes known as a “corporate crime,” these offenses are typically motivated by monetary purposes that involve some type of deception. Flint Law has extensive experience in dealing with these types of violations. If you or a loved one has been arrested or are the target of an investigation, you must contact an experienced white collar crime attorney in St. Petersburg immediately.

There are many different types of white collar crimes. These crimes can be committed against other individuals, employers, employees, businesses, the government, and the public.

Some of the most well-known white collar crimes include:

  • Fraud—Deliberate deception and misrepresentation of information for financial gain, such as insurance, security, bank, accounting, corporate, or credit card fraud.
  • Bribery—Offering or promising money, goods, or a favor to an individual or corporation with the intent to influence an action or decision.
  • Counterfeiting—Selling an unauthorized (“knock-off”) item as an original.
  • Embezzlement—Misuse of funds or property that a person was entrusted with.
  • Money Laundering—Making criminally obtained money to appear legitimate.

Some White Collar Crimes Are Not Defined Yet

Sometimes “white collar crimes” are hard to define because business practices many people would see as legitimate are treated as crimes by the government. In fact, you may be committing a federal crime right now and not even realize it. Of course, the conventional wisdom is that knowledge of the law is presumed and ignorance of the law, though common, is not a defense to a criminal prosecution. While there might be good reasons for this rule, it results in many injustices, as one court put it, “since ignorance of specific legal prohibitions is widespread.” United States v. Costello, 666 F.3d 1040 (7th Cir. 2012).

Part of the ignorance stems from the sheer number of federal crimes buried in the United States Criminal Code as well as the Code of Federal Regulations. The United States Criminal Code alone contains over 4,000 crimes. The Code of Federal Regulations consists of rules written by federal agencies to enforce acts of Congress. Many of these carry the force of federal criminal law and you can be prosecuted for violating them. Estimates of the number of federal regulations that can be charged as crimes range from an astonishing 100,000 to 300,000. No one can seem to come up with a firm number. The American Bar Association has tried to count the number of federal crimes but concluded that the attempt to count the number is an exercise in futility and likely to be inaccurate in any event.

But there may be hope that we can fnally find an accurate list of all federal crimes lurking out there. On January 30, 2014, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill amending certain federal mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws and imposing other requirements. If the bill becomes law, it will require the U.S. Attorney General to compile (and list on a website publically) (1) a list of all criminal statutory offenses in the United States Code, including a list of the elements for each criminal statutory offense; and (2) for each criminal statutory offense listed: (A) the potential criminal penalty for the criminal statutory offense; (B) the number of prosecutions for the criminal statutory offense brought by the Department of Justice each year for the 15-year period preceding the date of enactment of the Act; and (C) the mens rea requirement for the criminal statutory offense.

More importantly, the bill also requires the head of certain Federal agencies to compile (A) a list of all criminal regulatory offenses enforceable by the agency; and (B) for each criminal regulatory offense (i) the potential criminal penalty for a violation of the criminal regulatory offense; (ii) the number of violations of the criminal regulatory offense referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution in each of the years during the 15-year period preceding the date of enactment of this Act; and (iii) the mens rea requirement for the criminal regulatory offense.

This part of the bill addresses the growing concerns about “over-criminalization” of America, and that there are too many federal crimes and people unknowingly and unintentionally break laws and regulations (and even serve prison time) for violations that could be better addressed in a civil context. The bill can be found here. Scroll down to section 7 to find the relevant provisions.

But even with all the federal crimes (who knows how many) that are out there, federal courts often accuse federal prosecutors of routinely overreaching by stretching criminal law beyond its proper bounds. Criminal laws should not be used when civil laws cover conduct that falls in a gray area of arguable legality. Criminal law should clearly and distinctly separate conduct that is criminal from conduct that is legal. But the federal government appears to have forgotten or ignored that simple concept. In short, what might be a proper business practice today could be a federal crime tomorrow.

Vague “Anti-Fraud” Laws Are Often Used to Prosecute Arguably Lawful Conduct

Federal prosecutors seem to prefer to use the various and altogether vague “anti-fraud” laws found in the Criminal Code. What constitutes “fraud” to the government may not appear to be a crime to many people. One of the most commonly used (abused?) anti-fraud statutes is 18 U.S.C. section 1001, which criminalizes knowingly and willfully lying to federal agents, among a whole host of other acts. Many courts have recognized that section 1001 prosecutions can pose a risk of abuse and injustice. Section 1001 applies to virtually any statement an individual makes to virtually any federal government official—even when the individual making the statement is not under oath (unlike in perjury cases) or otherwise aware that criminal punishment can result from a false statement.

It is natural for people to be nervous or intimidated when a government agent with a badge and a firearm appears at the door for a polite conversation. As an understandable result of that nervousness or intimidation, completely innocent people may unintentionally misspeak or leave details out of that conversation that could later be used as the basis of a section 1001 prosecution. While the burden of proving that the misstatement or omission was made “knowingly and willfully” lies with the government, who wants to go through a lengthy, costly, and terrifying trial to vindicate himself in the face of the very real risk of conviction? Because of the draconian punishments in the federal system, entirely innocent people may be coerced into pleading guilty to a federal crime because the risk of conviction at trial is just too great or the cost of defense simply too much.

For these and many other reasons, if you are treated to a visit by government agents, make no statements. Politely decline to speak to them, get a business card and ask them to leave. And then contact a lawyer immediately.

Again, if you believe you are the target of a federal or state investigation, contact Flint Law to get advice from our informed and well-seasoned St. Petersburg white collar crime attorney.

What are the Punishments for White Collar Crimes?

The sentences for white collar crimes vary wildly depending upon a plethora of factors. As noted above, many white collar crimes are prosecuted in the federal courts. In the federal system, judges typically use the Federal Sentencing Guidelines as a starting point to determine the sentence. While the Guidelines are only “advisory,” many judges give them great weight. The Guidelines are very complicated, and only an attorney experienced in federal sentencing can wade through them. Determining a sentence in state court is a bit easier, but still requires thorough knowledge of Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. In short, an experienced white collar crime attorney can help you get the best possible sentence if you are unfortunate enough to be convicted.

White Collar Crime Investigations

White collar crimes are typically investigated by federal government agencies such as the FBI, IRS, the Postal Service, Defense Criminal Investigative Services, Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and a fistful of other agencies with investigative authority. The investigations can be complex and lengthy, sometimes taking years to complete. It is possible to be under investigation and not know it until you receive a visit from an investigator. Again, if government agents do attempt to talk to you, don’t, and consult with an attorney immediately.

To speak with a white collar attorney in the St. Petersburg area today, call Flint Law 727-483-8404.