U.S. Sentencing Commission Adjusts Penalties for White Collar Crimes

Recently, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to adopt changes in the guidelines that judges use in sentencing white collar crimes – to be effective this coming November.  The decision came in part as a reaction to the overpopulation crisis in the prison population, and increasing costs of incarceration. The current state of sentencing for economic crimes reflects public outcry that followed the Enron case and other crises in the early 2000s.  This resulted in steady increases in the length of prison sentences for white collar crimes, where federal courts routinely hand out sentences of 10 or 20 years – and sometimes significantly more – in a wide variety of fraud cases.

The purpose of the commission is to serve as an independent agency to establish sentencing practices in federal court and to help congress develop efficient crime policy.

Top Priorities

The following are the top priorities of the Commission:

  • In particular, the Commission considered changes to Section 2B1.1 of the sentencing guidelines and related provisions that govern fraud and other white collar crimes.  The sentencing would shift from relying on financial losses to measuring a defendant’s culpability while deciding on sentencing. Specifically, the commission voted to give minor participants in fraud schemes less severe sentences than the ‘ringleaders.’   The changes are intended to take into account an individual’s intent.
  • In addition, the Commission has on their radar (unrelated to white collar crimes) reducing the severity and scope of mandatory minimum sentences, further revisions to reduce punishments for certain non-violent offenses, and studying possible changes applicable to immigration offenses.

What is White Collar Crime?

The term was originally coined in the 1930s to refer to crimes committed by people of high social and economic stature.  Now, white collar crimes are simply defined as non-violent crimes committed for monetary gain.  The FBI considers a multitude of crimes white collar crimes, including: bankruptcy fraud, insurance fraud, identity theft, Social Security fraud, and money laundering.

In California, CA Penal Code Sections 186.11-186.12 provides for an aggravated white collar crime enhancement, which enhances sentencing greatly for: 1) those who have two or more felony convictions in a single proceeding; 2) those whose acts include fraud or embezzlement; 3) those who have taken $100,000 or more; 4) those who have engaged in a pattern of felony conduct.

Penalties for white collar crimes include fines, prison time, restitution (repayment of the money you stole), and forfeitures of your property.

In many cases, your case can be mitigated by cooperation with law enforcement in the prosecution of the investigation.

San Diego White Collar Crime Lawyer

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje can assist you in your white collar crime case.  We are dedicated to protecting your freedom, and have successfully represented many defendants, including those with criminal charges for embezzlement, theft, and fraud.  Mr. Boertje knows how to properly investigate theft and embezzlement cases and can uncover any evidence that will support your defense.  Don’t hesitate to contact us today for a consultation on your case.

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