“White Collar Crimes” are typically financial offenses prosecuted by federal authorities, although state prosecutors may bring charges as well. These offenses are in the nature of theft of money from banks, such as bank fraud, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, securities fraud, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, tax charges, and the like.
State “White Collar” charges will usually include embezzlement, bogus check or acquiring property by false pretenses. False declaration of ownership of property to a pawnbroker is another state charge one might see.
In the federal system, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are used to assist the court in the sentence to be imposed, whereas in the Oklahoma State Court system, the legislature provides the potential range of sentences for any given offense by statute, and it is up to the prosecutors and defense attorneys to negotiate a sentence (“plea bargain”). Of course, in state court, defendants are free to enter a plea to a charge without an agreement with the prosecutor, which is called a “blind” or “cold” plea. There is a risk that the judge, an elected official, will impose a harsh sentence to avoid having to explain a lenient sentence to voters at the next election.
Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, each offense is assigned a numeric point level, and depending upon aggravating or mitigating factors, the points go up or down. In White Collar offenses, the points are largely driving by the dollar amount of the theft or fraud, and whether the defendant abused a position of trust while committing the offense. The Guidelines are not mandatory, which means the court isn’t required to follow them in every case, but the court must consult them and explain any departures or variances from the Guidelines. Recently, in the Northern District of Oklahoma, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been negotiating plea agreements with an agreed sentencing range within the Guidelines. These are called “11(C)(1)(c)” agreements, from Rule 11 of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure.
I have been a criminal defense attorney for 40+ years. Before being admitted to practice, I was an intern with the Public Defender, so defending persons accused of crimes is in my DNA. My record speaks for itself, but I think my care and compassion for my clients, regardless of the charges, is something that drives me to work as diligently as I can to achieve the best results.