Could the Complexity of White Collar Crimes Help Defendants?

Simplify the issue. That's the advice often given to prosecutors who must try white collar criminal charges before a jury. White collar crimes often involve complex concepts and evidence. Many prosecutors are hard-pressed to understand the complicated financial scenarios involved in some white collar crimes.

If a case is headed to a jury, whether in Florida or elsewhere, the prosecuting attorneys may have the difficult task turning thousands of pages of financial records, accounting procedures and other complex evidence into information that a jury of laypeople can easily understand. They face added challenges because jurors are generally unfamiliar with white collar crimes, and the defendants are often upstanding members of a community.

In fact, some say worries over whether a jury will buy into a case involving white collar crime could encourage prosecutors to reach a plea agreement to avoid the risk of a trial. "It's a reality of charging decisions," a county prosecutor who is now a judge told an Idaho newspaper.

Challenges Begin With Investigation

The government's challenges in dealing with white collar crime begin long before opening statements begin. In some cases, it starts with overburdened local law enforcement agencies.

A new era of budget cuts means law enforcement officials across the country must carefully allocate resources to focus on their most pressing needs. While any complicated case can drain resources, white collar crimes take more time and money than many other types of cases.

Allegations of embezzlement, computer and Internet fraud, money laundering and health care fraud require knowledge of different concepts than the property crimes and violent crimes that local police see more often.

"Give me a robbery or a murder to solve any day over a white collar crime," an Idaho police sergeant told his local newspaper. "They are very difficult to understand."

Given the challenges of major white collar crimes, and the jurisdictional problems that occur when the alleged criminal conduct crosses into other states or jurisdictions, federal investigators and prosecutors often handle these matters.

In Idaho, the prosecutor turned judge waited as the statute of limitations drew near to charge a man in an alleged $75 million Ponzi scheme. According to news accounts, he told his successor that if the federal government did not file charges, the county prosecutors should. Six months after the prosecutors left, the federal government filed criminal charges, sparing local authorities an investigation and prosecution they may have been unequipped to manage.

Complexity of Case Could Benefit Defendants

For people charged with white collar crimes, the challenges local governments face in investigating and prosecuting white collar crimes can be an opportunity for a strong defense. Misunderstanding may lead to charges that are not supported by the facts. A skilled defense attorney will be able to identify weaknesses in the evidence and the prosecution's ability to explain the case to a jury and use those weaknesses to make the defendant's case stronger. If you are under investigation for a white collar crime, contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.