Ask a Financial Crime Attorney: What Are the Penalties for White-Collar Crime?

Because of certain high-profile white-collar crime cases, there is a general misunderstanding of how such cases are prosecuted and sentenced. This especially applies to what penalties might be involved and how they are assessed. To shed more light on this topic, we’ve highlighted some specific penalties and how a financial crime attorney might help navigate them.

Ask a Financial Crime Attorney: What Are the Penalties for White-Collar Crime?


Being convicted of a white-collar crime may result in imprisonment, depending on the severity of the crime, the jurisdiction, and multiple other factors. Courts often follow sentencing guidelines that can vary in different jurisdictions, and these will include things like the maximum sentence allowed. The length and terms of imprisonment will be determined by factors such as the severity of the crime and whether or not the defendant has a prior criminal record.

In certain cases, the court may consider unique factors that will allow it to depart from the sentencing guidelines in deciding the terms of imprisonment. For instance, if the defendant has no prior criminal record, he or she may receive a suspended jail sentence or one that is significantly shorter than the maximum term suggested by sentencing guidelines. He or she may even receive probation and avoid a jail sentence altogether.

Other Types of Confinement

Aside from imprisonment, penalties for white-collar crimes may include other types of confinement, such as home detention. In this case, the criminal is required to remain at home for a specified period and may not leave, with the possible exception of things like medical treatment or court-ordered correctional therapy. This typically includes wearing an electronic ankle bracelet that signals authorities if the home detention order has been violated.

There is also community confinement, which involves residence in a treatment center, alcohol or drug rehabilitation center, or mental health facility. Community confinement typically includes participating in gainful employment or employment search efforts, community service, or other approved programs during nonresidential hours. It is often imposed as a condition of probation or supervised release before serving the final portion of a prison sentence.

Financial Penalties

Being convicted of a white-collar crime may also include a variety of financial penalties, such as fines imposed by the jurisdiction in which they occurred. The fine amount can vary depending on each case’s specifics and potential differences in the law from state to state. Financial crime lawyers in Houston are the best source for explaining these fines and how they may be imposed in the Houston area.

Some offenders may also be ordered to pay financial restitution to compensate victims affected by the crime. If the sentence includes restitution, this must be paid regardless of whether the offender is in prison or on probation. If the offender refuses to pay, victims may file a restitution lien to recover the damages they are owed. It’s important to note that financial restitution is separate from fines, court costs, and attorney fees.

Civil Liability

While prosecuting a white-collar crime, a civil case may be filed by the government, by victims of the crime, or both. A civil court case is distinct from a criminal court case, with different rules and consequences best explained by an experienced white-collar crime attorney. A government might pursue a civil case seeking asset forfeiture, whereby they can seize anything purchased with the proceeds of the offense.

Another reason that a government might pursue a civil case is to seek what’s known as disgorgement. This involves handing the government any profits obtained from the illegal acts or wrongful conduct in question. Any victim of the crime may also pursue his or her own civil case to recover any financial losses.

Employment and Other Consequences

In addition to criminal and civil penalties, anyone with a white-collar crime on their record may find it difficult to obtain employment. White-collar crimes often include some form of deceit or dishonesty, and employers are understandably wary of hiring anyone who has displayed these traits. Further, a criminal conviction may cause someone to lose certain types of professional licenses or prevent them from being obtained.

Another potential consequence has to do with citizenship and immigration status. For instance, if someone is a lawful permanent resident of the United States, a criminal white collar offense may prevent him or her from pursuing full citizenship. Further, a conviction may even result in being removed from the country.

This is a general overview of some penalties associated with white-collar crime. These range from criminal to financial penalties and may even include losing the ability to live and work in the United States. Be sure to consult a professional white-collar crime attorney for more detailed information.

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