Sentencing Guidelines And White Collar Crimes

One of the main purposes of the criminal justice system is to protect the public. But what happens when the alleged offender is not violent and has no previous criminal history? What is the correct punishment in these situations?

This is the question that is often posed in cases involving allegations of white collar crimes. Crimes like embezzlement, insider trading and money laundering. Some argue that those who do not pose a physical threat to society should not face decades of imprisonment. Others argue financial crimes are just as serious as the physical.

This debate over sentencing for white collar crimes is not a new one, but a recent article in the New York Times revisits the argument.

What prompted this renewed look at white collar crime sentencing?

The piece in the Times focused on the story of a man charged with fraud. The judge presiding over his case, Jed S. Rakoff from the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, is a critic of the sentencing guidelines used for these crimes. In this case, he noted the guidelines pushed for a sentence of over 15 years imprisonment. Something he stated was "absurd" for the allegations at hand. The allegations centered on funding "wildly speculative options trades that ultimately failed."

Instead, Judge Rakoff provided a sentence that did not follow these guidelines. He opted instead for a much shorter sentence with a four-year prison term.

Although judges are not required to abide by the guidelines, the issue of what a judge should consider when imposing a sentence remains. The most pressing question, according to Judge Rakoff, is "how much should the loss of prestige and income by the white-collar offender be a factor in mitigating a sentence?"

Does loss of prestige and income factor into sentencing in these crimes?

It appears the loss of prestige and income is not a huge factor during sentencing-at least not officially. Instead, the United States Sentencing Commission provides increased sentencing recommendations based on how much was lost. Increases in penalties can begin with a loss in excess of $6,500 for cases involving allegations of fraud, larceny and embezzlement.

Penalties can also increase based on the number of victims impacted by the allegations.

What about those faced with allegations of white collar crimes?

White collar crime allegations, from fraud to embezzlement to bribery, are serious. They can impact those charged both personally and professionally. As a result, it is wise for anyone accused of committing one of these crimes to seek the counsel of an experienced white collar crime lawyer.