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Defense Options When Facing White-Collar Criminal Charge

White-collar crimes are typically non-violent financial crimes—think embezzlement, forgery, Internet fraud, and public corruption—but the charges and potential sentences are serious. Anyone who even thinks he or she may be under investigation should hire a white-collar criminal defense attorney immediately to begin preparing a defense.

Proving White-Collar Crime

In order to successfully defend yourself, it helps to understand how the prosecution will try to prove its case. In general, it will need to prove both that a crime occurred and that you intentionally and willfully committed that crime. Cases often hinge on proving the defendant had a guilty mind (mens rea).

"Mens rea" can cover a range of mental states, from negligence, the failure to maintain a reasonable standard of behavior, to intent, consciously choosing to commit an act you know is illegal. Many statutes specify the degree of mens rea that must be present—and proved—to warrant a conviction for certain crimes.

In some cases, you could be indicted for a white-collar crime even if you were not successful in completing the criminal act. This is called an inchoate crime. An example would be agreeing to commit an act of forgery, even if you never actually did so.

Defenses Against White-Collar Criminal Charges

Your best defense against white-collar criminal charges is having a knowledgeable team of white-collar criminal defense lawyers. They can review your case and try to work with the prosecutor to get charges dropped or reduced.

If you do go to trial, attorneys familiar with the appropriate federal or state statutes regarding the specific crime you have been charged with can determine the best defense to use. Two potential defenses commonly used for white collar crime cases are:

  • Entrapment—This defense argues that government or law enforcement personnel coerced you into committing the crime and that without their encouragement, you never would have done it.
  • Absence of IntentWith this defense, you admit that your actions may have been criminal, but argue that you did not know this and had no intention of committing a crime.

Many other potential defenses may also apply, depending on your circumstances:

  • DuressIn this case, you argue that another person forced you to commit the crime, usually with a threat of harm to yourself or someone else.
  • IncapacityThis defense argues that you were not capable of taking the actions you are accused of performing. It can refer to physical or mental incapacity.
  • IntoxicationSince an intoxicated person may be incapable of acting rationally, you may be able to successfully argue that you were not able to form the intent to commit a crime.

White-collar criminal charges are serious, and in recent years the sentences have gotten more serious, too. Spending a decade in prison is not unheard of anymore. If you are under investigation, get legal representation right away.