The term “white collar” describes many non-violent, illegal acts committed to obtain money or some financial gain. The exact punishment for a white collar crime in California depends on the specific crime they accuse you of committing.
Each white collar crime may involve deceit, concealment, or an abuse of trust. The punishment for all white collar crimes includes time behind bars, restitution, and fines. In California, some white collar crimes are listed as felonies and others are misdemeanors.
Types of White Collar Crime in California
In California, white collar crimes range from fraud and computer crimes to forgery, car insurance fraud and environmental crime. Embezzlement is another type of white collar crime. According to the state’s Penal Code Section 503, embezzlement is taking property or money entrusted to you.
Other types of white collar crimes in California include:
- Medi-Cal fraud
- Health care fraud
- Workers’ compensation fraud
- Mortgage fraud
- Unemployment insurance fraud
Notice that each of these crimes involves some kind of fraud. Many white collar crimes are based on fraudulent activities. Usually they’re committed by someone in a position of power in a business, hence the name white collar for the white shirts worn by people with this status.
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Difference Between Misdemeanor and Felony Punishments
A white collar misdemeanor is considered a serious crime, punishable by time in county jail ranging from days to months, but never longer than one year. Despite its status, many businesses will fire and potentially blacklist someone who is convicted of any white collar crime.
A white collar felony is considered a harsher, more serious crime than a misdemeanor. It is punishable by state prison time. The time in state prison for a felony white collar crime is at least one year. In addition, you will lose several civil rights for a number of years after your release.
The Prison Is the Same
There is a perception that prison is different for white collar criminals and that most convicted white collar felons go to minimum security facilities. While this is possible, there is no guarantee this will happen.
Where you go depends entirely on the correctional authorities, so do not think that prison is a toothless threat! Even in a minimum security facility, you still have plenty of restrictions on your behavior and a loss of freedom.
Aggravated White Collar Crime Enhancement
The state has a law referred to as an aggravated white collar crime enhancement. The law allows a judge in California to add an additional two to five years to your prison sentence if two things apply.
The first thing is that you have two prior white collar crime convictions involving embezzlement and fraud. The second is that the alleged victim must lose more than $100,000 due to the crime.
The amount of money the alleged victim lost determines the additional years in prison you may face, if convicted.
For instance, if an alleged victim lost more than $100,000 but less than $500,000, you face an additional one or two years in prison. If an alleged victim lost more than $500,000, you may have three or five years added to your criminal sentence.
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Fines for White Collar Crimes
If convicted of a white collar crime, a judge may also include a fine too. A fine is a payment made to the court. The purpose of paying a fine to the court is to deter and prevent you from committing the crime again. The fine may range from $1,000 to more than $10,000.
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Restitution to White Collar Crime Victims
Judges will often require a person convicted of a white collar crime to pay restitution to victims for any financial setbacks. A significant part of the punishment is to help victims recover the money or property taken from them in the course of the crime.
Restitution and fines are not used interchangeably. They are separate punishments. Restitution is paid to the victim, and fines are paid to the court. If you are convicted, you must pay both before you can be free from your legal obligation.
Other Punishments for White Collar Crimes in California
A judge may include other punishments in addition to prison or jail time, such as forfeiture, which is the seizure of your personal property by law enforcement officers. Property can be taken if used in a crime or obtained as a result of a crime.
Home detention, or house arrest, is an alternative to jail time. Home detention is the punishment of remaining in your home for a specific amount of time (such as six months) instead of serving time in jail.
You cannot leave your home unless you are going to work, school or doctor’s appointments. If you violate home detention, you may have to spend the rest of your criminal sentence in jail.
Professional Punishments for White Collar Crimes
In addition to the legal punishments, people in prominent positions can be punished by professional ethics organizations if they’re convicted of a white collar crime. For instance, if a doctor is caught using the wrong codes for billing insurance to get more money, they could lose the right to practice.
The rules and punishments for ethical violations depend on the crime, the position, and the profession. At worst, you could be barred from practicing ever again. Even if you win your case, you could still be reprimanded by your peers for what happened.
In cases of corruption, you could be barred from holding public office again. In California, since 2012, no felon can run for public office. Thus, a conviction could destroy your entire career. That’s why you must defend yourself!
Finally, if you’re not a United States citizen and you’ve been convicted of a white collar crime, you could be deported from the country. Even if you’re a lawful permanent resident on a lawful work visa, the conviction could overturn that status.
Also, even if you make it up later and get back into the country legally, that conviction will be a mark against you if you apply for full citizenship. Depending on the circumstances, you may never be able to achieve that status.
Avoid the Harsh Punishments of a White Collar Conviction
If you or a family member have been accused of and/or arrested for a white collar crime in California, the law is not on your side right now. Prosecutors are focused on getting a conviction or an unfair guilty plea.
You have the right to defend yourself with the help of a strong defense team. Let the Simmrin Law Group be your strong defense team. Contact our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm immediately for a FREE consultation.