With the increased media coverage of white collar crimes, many people feel the time is right for increased penalties for such crimes. However, no legislation is pending for such measures. The country is in need of qualified individuals, preferably who have completed a social justice masters program, to help improve the current laws and practices. Currently, individuals facing federal white collar criminal charges can expect the following penalties.
In the majority of white collar crimes, the court seeks criminal rather than civil damages. As a result, defendants can face fines, prison sentences, and payments for restitution for victims. Additionally, many federal criminal cases result in further civil litigation from victims. These civil cases are separate from any penalties incurred in the criminal proceedings.Criminal penalties vary depending on the nature of the crime in question. Judges are given little leeway in determining the sentence imposed. Federal sentencing guidelines strictly dictate the mandatory minimum and maximum sentences which may be imposed. While the judges may choose to sentence an individual at either the high or low end of the spectrum, they are not permitted to step outside these guidelines without well documented extenuating circumstances. Most federal defendants will serve some time in a federal prison facility. Those who are sentenced to at least one year and one day are eligible for time off for good behavior. Anyone sentenced to less time must serve the entire sentence in incarceration.
In the event that the court chooses to seek civil damages instead of a criminal conviction, the court may impose civil fines starting at a minimum of $150,000 per offense or violation. Fines are often increased from this point on a case by case basis. The main determining factor in establishing civil fines is to ensure the fine acts as a deterrent against further infractions. This means that the court may impose larger fines to fit the nature of the crime as it sees fit.
Social and Employment Penalties
Anyone convicted of a federal crime, particularly a white collar crime suffer greatly upon completion of the sentence. These crimes are seen as particularly egregious by future employers due to the fact that most white collar crimes involve issues of violated trust. Unlike crimes of passion or even crimes involving a certain degree of violence, employers have a difficult time regaining confidence in a person who can knowingly and wantonly commit a crime in a professional manner. Those convicted often face extremely limited earning potential for the remainder of their lives and, depending on their age at the time of conviction, they may never fully recover their earning potential.
In addition to employment difficulties, those convicted of federal crimes suffer reduction of rights and civil liberties. Depending on the state of residence, a federal felon may not be permitted to vote in future elections. Each state sets guidelines for readmitting disenfranchised individuals into voting society. In twelve states including Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming, federal felon may lose their voting privileges permanently. Furthermore, federal law strictly prohibits any felon from owning or having access to a firearm or ammunition. There is no legal way to regain the right to bear arms for a federal felon other that the Presidential Pardon process. Convicted felons who are caught in the possession of a firearm are subject to a mandatory five year prison sentence for each count. In most cases, prosecutors will consider each individual round of ammunition as a separate offense. For example, if a previously convicted individual is found to have access to a firearm and three rounds of ammunition, he would automatically be incarcerated for twenty years, or five years for each individual infraction.