By: Mark Diaz
Share This Post
How Serious Are White Collar Crimes in Galveston County?
You can search all you want in the Texas Penal Code for information on what constitutes a white-collar crime, but your efforts will be for naught if you use this terminology. There are no provisions that mention the schemes that are commonly associated with high-up executives and business leaders, which is where the phrase originates. According to the FBI, officials coined the term in 1939, generally referring to non-violent, financial offenses associated with misconduct by corporate and government professionals.
Therefore, since Texas laws do not specifically cover them, it is difficult to understand the severity of white-collar crimes in Galveston County. It helps to know that the charges usually stem from a combination of theft, fraud, and corruption, all of which are serious offenses. Plus, white-collar crimes are often charged as felonies, which involve hefty fines and longer prison terms compared to misdemeanors.
To fully understand how serious they are, you should consult with a Galveston County white-collar crime attorney who can assess your circumstances and advise you on defense options. Still, an overview should put things into perspective.
Theft And Fraud Are the Foundation Of White-Collar Crimes
In truth, there really is no need for there to be a separate category or definition of white-collar crime under state law. The Texas Penal Code includes multiple provisions on:
- Theft: This aspect of a white-collar crime covers the unlawful misappropriation of property or other items of value with the intent to deprive the owner of its use. Theft does not necessarily involve the use of deception, so the crime could be taking place right in front of the victim.
- Fraud: When someone intentionally uses misrepresentations, false statements, and deceit to gain something of value, the charges could involve fraud. The key with these cases is that the deception induces the victim to part with money or property, acting on the reliance on the dishonest information.
- Corruption: white-collar crimes may involve public officials or private individuals in positions of influence within a company. Bribery and corruption charges stem from someone offering or agreeing to provide a benefit, which would be in exchange for favorable treatment from the official.
Common White Collar Crimes
If you take a closer look at how theft, fraud, and corruption laws operate in the context of white-collar crimes, you can see how the most common schemes develop. They include:
- Bankruptcy Fraud: A debtor may be tempted to hide real estate and personal property when going through bankruptcy proceedings, so they do not lose them through liquidation.
- Corporate Fraud: This white-collar crime encompasses schemes to falsify financial statements, insider trading, and workers’ compensation fraud.
- Embezzlement: A common white-collar crime involves very unique circumstances because the person who ultimately misappropriated the property did exercise legal control over it at some point. An example is where an employee is entrusted to deposit petty cash, but he or she takes it instead.
- Identity Fraud: Credit card theft, using someone else’s information to get credit, and stealing a Social Security number are all criminal offenses.
Other examples of white-collar crimes include health care fraud, money laundering, bribery, tax evasion, and mail and wire fraud.
How Police Investigations Cross the Line
Fundamental constitutional protections require officers to have a warrant supported by probable cause to arrest someone for any criminal offense. This standard requires evidence, and a judge will assess whether the proof meets the relevant standard. Plus, though it is the prosecution that actually pursues the charges, police also strive to gather as much evidence as they can to support the government’s burden: Proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In their efforts to gather evidence for a white-collar crime case, police are notorious for crossing the line and violating a suspect’s civil rights. Under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and parallel provisions in the Texas Constitution, it is illegal for officers to conduct a search without a warrant supported by probable cause. They could violate your rights by:
- Illegally accessing online profiles, computer equipment, and telecommunications networks;
- Requesting bank account information and details regarding financial transactions; and,
- Going through your US mail and phone records.
Defenses In White Collar Crime Cases
Police misconduct is often a crucial defense in these cases and developing a strategy around it carries significant benefits for you. If you were subjected to an unlawful search and seizure in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights, all evidence resulting from the misconduct must be tossed out of court. Without this information, the prosecutor may not be able to meet its burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Other defenses may include:
- Mistake or lack of knowledge with respect to the nature of the misappropriated property
- Entrapment, such as when law enforcement officials encourage you to commit a white-collar crime just to make an arrest
- The perpetrator made statements that he or she believed were true
- Mistaken identity
Other Strategies for Fighting The Charges
Not all tactics will result in a complete dismissal or acquittal, but it may be possible to avoid the harshest punishment in a white-collar crime case. These matters are unique in several respects:
- Many perpetrators have never had an encounter with law enforcement.
- The offenses are not violent, so the threat to public safety is minimal.
- White collar crimes charges usually come by grand jury indictment after an exhaustive investigation by officials.
Because of these factors, prosecutors are often willing to work out white-collar crimes via plea bargaining or other arrangements. In some cases, the government may agree to not file charges if the individual pays restitution.
Punishment For White-Collar Crimes Convictions
A look at the severe penalties for a white-collar crime conviction should convince you of the importance of developing a solid defense strategy. Sentencing depends upon the specific charges – which in turn vary according to the type of misconduct, the victims who were defrauded, and the value of the misappropriated property. For instance:
- White collar crimes that are charged as misdemeanors will usually result in a jail sentence of less than one year. The judge could order a fine from $2,000 to $4,000.
- For a State Jail Felony, your sentence may be 180 days to two years of incarceration.
- A Third-Degree Felony is punishable by two to 10 years in prison.
- The mandatory minimum for a Second-Degree Felony is also two years, but a judge could order up to 20 years for a conviction.
For all felony convictions, a court could impose a fine of up to $10,000.
If convicted of any white-collar crime, restitution will probably be part of your sentence, as well. You could be ordered to pay victims back for the loss of value in the property that was misappropriated, plus interest.
Why Legal Representation Is Critical
The penalties described above should convince you of the reasons retaining a Galveston County white-collar crime attorney must be a priority. However, there are many additional reasons you need a defense lawyer at your side throughout the criminal process.
- Your first court appearance is your arraignment, where the judge reads the specific white-collar crimes, and you are required to enter a plea. This is also a key point for arranging bail, enabling you to be on a regular schedule pending your trial date.
- The defenses mentioned above will only come to the court’s attention if you raise them. You will need to do so via motions, which are requests that the judge take an action or make a decision. In white-collar crime cases, motions may involve excluding evidence, compelling evidence from the government, and dismissing the charges.
- Financial analysts and forensic experts play a powerful role in your defense in a white-collar crime case. Your attorney will work closely with these professionals in developing strategies.
- Plea bargains and out-of-court settlements are possible in white-collar crime cases, but you must fully understand the implications before moving forward on a deal.
- Litigation is complicated and involves many stages, including discovery of documents. Your lawyer will take care of strategy, including opening and closing arguments, questioning witnesses, and presenting evidence in your favor.
Call Now To Speak To A Galveston County White Collar Crime Attorney
This information points out the serious nature of white-collar crimes in Galveston County, but it should also convince you that retaining skilled legal counsel is a priority. Though the charges are severe, defenses and other strategies may lead to a favorable outcome. Without a lawyer, however, you are at a disadvantage in leveraging them.
To learn how our team supports your legal needs, please contact Galveston County white-collar crime attorney Mark Diaz. We are ready to pursue all tactics for fighting white-collar crimes, as criminal defense is the primary focus at our firm. You can call 409-515-6170 to set up a free consultation with one of our Galveston County criminal defense attorneys. Our firm serves clients in Greater Houston and throughout Galveston County, and we look forward to working with you.