California professionals charged with a white-collar crime often have many questions about what to expect. For many of them, this is their first experience with the legal system, and feelings of fear and confusion are natural.
Penalties for white-collar crimes are serious, and can include jail time. Some of these offenses are treated as federal crimes, which means that the penalties may include time in a federal prison.
What is a white-collar crime?
White-collar crime is a general term given to crimes involving government officials, businesspeople or other professionals. Unlike so-called street crimes, white-collar crimes are non-violent in nature and usually involve some type of fraud.
If you are charged with a white-collar crime, your main question is probably going to ask, “Am I going to prison?”
Of course, the answer depends upon the exact circumstances of your case and the evidence against you.
There may be some defenses available to you, such as lack of intent, since most fraud charges require intent in order to secure a conviction.
However, if it looks like the prosecution has enough evidence for a conviction, it is time to begin negotiating to avoid or reduce any prison time.
Paying the victim back
Since white-collar crimes such as fraud usually involve a victim who has lost money, sometimes you can avoid prison time by coming up with the money you allegedly took and paying your victim back.
Paying the money back before you are sentenced is the best way to avoid prison time. A main difference between state and federal criminal charges is that the judge decides your sentence, rather than the prosecutor.
Therefore, even if the prosecutor recommends a fine or probation, a judge could still order prison time. Showing the judge that you have already paid the victim back can increase your chance of getting a sentence that does not include jail time.
Seek advice right away
The first thing you should do when charged with a white-collar crime, or even finding out you are being investigated, is talk with a criminal defense attorney with experience in federal crimes.