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White collar sentencing guidelines in the US could use some work.
For a perfect example of the incompetence and ineffectiveness of our sentencing laws, take a look at the case of Norman Schmidt. Schmidt was sentenced to a staggering 330-year prison sentence after being convicted of conspiracy and fraud.
In an effort to address some of the key problems with white collar sentencing laws, a federal panel voted to amend the guidelines in April. The new guidelines will be submitted to Congress and may go into effect next November, barring lawmaker intervention.
Some of the proposed changes include:
Greater consideration of criminal role and intent. Under the new guidelines, greater consideration would be given to the role and intention of the person accused of committing the white-collar crime. For instance, a person who was aware of a crime taking place might receive a lesser sentence than someone who had organized the scheme. The courts will also consider whether or not the accused intended to cause suffering and loss.
Harsher penalties for crimes that cause substantial harm. In the past, courts focused on the number of victims affected by a crime when determining sentencing for white-collar offenses. With the new law, however, judges can assign sterner sentences for those who cause significant suffering and loss to a smaller number of victims.
With these changes, lawmakers hope to give white-collar sentencing guidelines more credibility, so judges are more inclined to follow them and assign harsher penalties.
While many would maintain that our current sentencing guidelines for white collar crimes are flawed, few would argue that existing penalties aren’t severe and life-altering.
The law considers white collar crimes to be serious offenses, involving intentional deception for financial gain or harm to another. Common examples include forgery, check fraud, credit card fraud, money laundering, and identity theft.
The criminal penalties for white collar crimes often include lengthy prison sentences, staggering fines, and strict probation. If you are convicted of a white collar crime, you may also be forced to pay restitution to the victims of your alleged actions.
But perhaps the most devastating consequences of a white collar conviction involve the effect on your personal life and career. White collar crimes are often widely publicized in the media, and those accused are often demonized and humiliated. After being convicted of a white collar crime, you are likely to lose your job and will almost certainly have difficulty finding another, as your employers will be able to look at your record of alleged deceit and dishonesty. If you are a licensed professional, you are likely to lose your license to practice.
In addition, you could face deportation for a white collar crime if you are a non-US citizen—even if you are a lawful permanent resident. A white collar conviction may also make it impossible for you to secure citizenship status in the future.
That’s why it is crucial to consult with a knowledgeable white collar defense attorney if you are facing fraud or other financial crime charges. If your attorney begins work on your case early enough, he or she may be able to intervene to reduce or even entirely eliminate charges against you before the case goes to court – sometimes, a skilled lawyer can even prevent white collar charges from being brought altogether. And if it does become necessary to go to take your case to trial, your lawyer can aggressively defend your rights and negotiate the best possible outcome.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.