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Understanding White Collar Crimes

Understanding White Collar Crimes

The definition of the offenses that amount to white collar crime has slightly changed since the term entered the lexicon in the 20th century. The early use of this term implied that white collar crimes were those perpetrated by individuals who enjoyed a certain respectable status in society while they exercised their function or occupation. By the 1970s, the definitions of white collar crime were modified — by society’s response to media events — to mostly reflect fraudulent offenses in the financial realm, without regard for the social status of the perpetrator.

In the 1980s, the United States Department of Justice added certain parameters to white collar crime that characterized the offenses:

  • Non-violent
  • Deceptive
  • Financially motivated
  • Shrewd

It is important to note that the definitions of white collar crime are mostly semantic, and they are usually not coded, classified or mentioned as such in statutes or compendiums of law. Legal practitioners and law enforcement officials do take into consideration the definitions and characteristics of white collar crime in their profession. There is, however, some consensus as to the typical actions that would label someone a white collar criminal. Some of these actions, which can be found in the Ohio Revised Code and the federal laws, include:

  • Computer crime
  • Corrupt activity
  • Extortion
  • Forgery
  • Identity fraud
  • Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

Investigation and prosecution of white collar crimes has considerably increased in recent decades. While judges and juries are well aware that white collar offenses do not usually entail elements of vice or violence, they are not likely to go easy on defendants. The realm of white collar crime has become incredibly complex, and thus defendants are in need of a focused criminal defense more than ever.


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