Penalties for White-Collar Crime


The law authorizes severe maximum penalties for white-collar crimes, and while most defendants receive less than the maximum sentence, this can still mean decades-long prison terms and long probation periods after release. In addition to prison sentences, the law may authorize financial penalties, such as fines, restitution (repayment to the victim for damages or financial or property losses) or asset forfeiture, in which the government seizes anything purchased with profits from the crime.

In most cases, the sentencing judge follows state or federal sentencing guidelines that were developed to ensure consistent penalties throughout the justice system. The guidelines take into consideration the type of crime and a defendant’s criminal record. Even defendants without a prior criminal record may receive lengthy prison sentences in addition to significant financial penalties.

Asset Forfeiture

A primary concern for many individuals charged with a crime is the confiscation of hard-earned property. The state and federal government can and will seize assets if it believes the assets were acquired through a criminal act or were used during a crime. In cases of asset confiscation, the property's owner must prove based on a preponderance of the evidence that it is not subject to forfeiture.

At the New Jersey and New York criminal defense law firm,  Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers, we do not let our clients lose property without a fight. If your property has been seized or is at risk of being seized, we can help.

Civil Liability

A person convicted of criminal charges can also face financial penalties from civil lawsuits brought by victims or the government. Victims may sue to recover financial losses or the government might seek disgorgement, which requires the defendant to turn over illegally-gained profits to the victims.

The Prison Routine

The belief that a white collar conviction means serving "easy time" in a comfortable, minimum-security institution is a myth. Many people convicted of a white-collar crime are placed in minimum-security institutions, but there is no guarantee that this will happen. Correctional authorities, such as the Federal Bureau of Prisons, have scoring criteria that determine what level facility a defendant will be housed.

Just like maximum-security prisons, low-security federal prisons subject inmates to a strict routine. It’s not uncommon for inmates to be awakened routinely through the night and the day starts early, at 6:00am. Inmates typically have 90 minutes to shower, dress and report to work--prison jobs pay about $1.00 an hour. Inmates can save their money to buy snacks and drinks from the prison commissary. Personal items, including televisions and radios may also be available for purchase.

The most difficult thing about prison is the complete loss of freedom. Each day—even weekends and holidays—follows the same strict routine and inmates must ask for permission from the guards before doing even the smallest task. Family visits are strictly limited, as are phone calls home.

Employment and social consequences

A conviction for a white-collar crime carries both a professional and social stigma. Finding a job after being convicted of a white-collar crime can be hard. A person may lose a professional license or have difficulty obtaining one as a result of a conviction. Non-citizens may face immigration issues, including deportation/removal, whether or not he or she has a legal work visa. Becoming a citizen may also be difficult after conviction. Most troubling is the irreparable damage a conviction can do to both a person’s reputation and his or her relationships with family and friends. A conviction can change a person’s life forever.

Speak to a criminal defense lawyer

If you or someone you love is under investigation or facing charges for a white-collar crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can assess your case and protect your rights. In some cases, an experienced attorney can prevent you from ever being charged or negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser sentence. For more information, contact Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers in Westfield, NJ and Manhattan, NY.