An Introduction to White Collar Crime Defense
While most people view white collar crimes as referring to less serious offenses, the related penalties can significantly alter your life. A white collar crime defense attorney can advise you on conduct that constitutes a white collar crime so that you can avoid such charges. However, should you face white collar crime charges in Indiana, it is essential to move quickly to find legal help. Having an attorney present from the beginning, starting with the investigation or grand jury, if not sooner, is critical to protecting your rights.
The Indiana white collar defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP vigorously defend you and protect your rights through all stages of your case.
White Collar Crime Defense: Understanding the Crime
White collar crimes involve conduct by business professionals, government officials, and others acting in a manner that results in unlawful financial or personal gains. The state or federal governments may prosecute white collar crimes depending on who the crime impacts.
A white collar crime is under federal jurisdiction when it impacts the federal government or a federally funded program, implicates a federal criminal offense, or reaches across state lines. Offenses of this type that do not implicate federal law are prosecuted under state law. Whether you face state or federal charges, having experienced Indiana white collar defense attorneys on your side is essential to fight the charges against you.
Some of the most common white collar crimes pertain to fraud. Indiana white collar crime defense attorneys can help fight charges like these:
- Bank fraud, which involves using illegal methods to obtain money from a financial institution
- Mail fraud, which involves using the US Mail for the commission of a crime
- Credit card fraud, which often involves identity theft or other means to illegally obtain something of value
- Bribery and extortion, which often involves using money or threats to influence a public official to perform or neglect their duties
- Identity theft, which involves using another person’s identifying details for financial gain
- Money laundering, which often involves concealing the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by placing it in offshore accounts or disguising it as the profits of a legal business
White collar crimes are typically the defendant’s first experience with the justice system. As a result, most white collar defendants are unfamiliar with the criminal process and how to develop strategies necessary to build a successful defense. Hiring a criminal defense attorney with experience in this area is crucial to a successful defense.
The Prosecution of White Collar Crime Defense
Preparation is key for a successful defense against white collar crime charges. You can be a meaningful part of your defense team if you familiarize yourself with the criminal justice system when you become the subject of an investigation or face a white collar criminal charge.
You will likely become aware of an investigation into the alleged criminal activities before any charges are filed. You should engage a skilled white collar criminal defense lawyer even at this early stage. The best Indiana white collar defense attorneys can guide you through the legal process, answer any questions you may have related to your defense and develop and employ a rigorous defense strategy to protect your future.
Investigation, Grand Jury, and Indictments
An investigation into an alleged white collar crime may begin due to an internal audit or because a whistleblower suspected criminal behavior and informed the authorities. A whistleblower is often an employee of the company or governmental unit in which criminal conduct allegedly took place. The whistleblower receives certain protections and sometimes a monetary award from the government for bringing forth information related to an alleged crime.
Prosecution may be initiated either by charges or by a grand jury indictment. If a case goes before a grand jury, the investigators present evidence to a group of citizens and ask them to determine whether it is enough for prosecution. The target, the person under investigation by a grand jury, has a right to appear before the grand jury. In Indiana, the grand jury subpoena given to a defendant must state that the person accused:
- Is the subject of the grand jury investigation
- Has the right to consult with and receive an attorney’s counsel and representation
A person who must appear before a grand jury may consult with an attorney but must testify in front of the grand jury without the attorney in the room. However, such individuals may ask for a break from questioning to meet with their attorney outside of the presence of the grand jury to ensure they are answering questions correctly. Generally, the only people in the room are the grand jury, the witness or target testifying, the prosecuting attorney, and the court reporter.
If you are the subject of an investigation or a grand jury hearing, it is wise to contact an Indiana attorney to help with your white collar crime defense. Not only can Indiana white collar defense attorneys help with the initial investigation, but they can also assist should you face criminal charges following a grand jury indictment.
Pretrial Procedure in White Collar Cases
The grand jury returns an indictment if it believes there is enough evidence of criminal activity to justify prosecution. Arrest of the target, now a defendant, will likely follow. After an arrest, it is important to obtain counsel with extensive experience building a white collar crime defense. If you have not already engaged defense counsel, you should do so immediately upon the return of an indictment or no later than your arrest so that your white collar defense attorney can begin developing the best defense strategy possible for all stages of the prosecution.
Once the arrest occurs, the defendant appears at an initial hearing for the formal advisement of charges. The defendant may seek bail and enter a preliminary plea of guilty or not guilty at this hearing. Typically, white collar crimes are considered less severe crimes, so the court may consider releasing the defendant on bail pending trial. The judge sets bail based on several factors, including whether the court believes the defendant will return to court as required, will commit another crime, or presents a risk to the community.
After the initial hearing, your attorney will investigate the case and, through discovery, obtain information from the prosecutor’s investigation. This information includes witness information and statements as well as other information regarding the prosecutor’s evidence. An experienced attorney uses this information when interviewing witnesses, collecting evidence, and building your white collar crime defense strategy.
In the prosecution of a white collar crime charge, the defense attorney often files pretrial motions. These motions typically center around dismissing the case, suppressing certain evidence, or other tactics for reducing the chance of conviction.
If you have been charged with a white collar crime, your role in the pretrial stage is very minimal. You work with your defense attorney to gather and prepare evidence, identify potential witnesses, and build a defense based on the known facts and evidence. However, you will have very little interaction with the court during the initial stage other than possibly appearing for hearings on pretrial motions.
The White Collar Crime Trial
Following pretrial motions, the sides make their final preparations for trial. For jury trials, the trial usually begins with the jury selection process. When picking a jury, the prosecutor and defense attorney interview potential jurors and use a limited number of objections to dismiss unfavorable jurors. Once the sides settle on a jury, the trial begins with the judge giving initial instructions regarding the parties’ responsibilities during the trial.
Before the parties begin offering evidence, the prosecutor and your white collar defense attorney will each give an opening statement, introducing the jury to their theory of the case and the evidence they will present. Next, the attorneys present evidence and call witnesses with the prosecution presenting its case first.
At the conclusion of all evidence, each attorney delivers a closing argument. The case is then delivered to the court or to the jury (with instructions from the judge regarding the standard of proof and the elements of the crime that are needed to convict). The court (or the jury) then privately considers the evidence and whether it sufficient to support a conviction. Under Indiana Jury Rule 16, a guilty or not guilty verdict must generally be unanimous. If the court or jury returns a guilty verdict, the sentencing stage of the trial follows.
Penalties for Indiana White Collar Crimes
White collar crime convictions carry heavy penalties that can significantly alter the course of a defendant’s life. The identity and level of the offense and whether it is the defendant’s first conviction, among other factors, impact the severity of the penalty. Penalties for white collar crimes may include imprisonment, fines, probation, restitution, and community service.
White collar crimes range from misdemeanors to felonies, with felonies carrying heavier penalties. Penalties associated with misdemeanors and various felonies include:
- Misdemeanors: As much as one year in prison and $5,000 in fines
- Level 6 felony: Six months to one year in prison and fines up to $10,000
- Level 5 felony: One to six years in prison and fines up to $10,000
- Level 4 felony: Two to 12 years in prison and fines up to $10,000
- Level 3 felony: Three to 16 years in prison and fines up to $10,000
- Level 2 felony: Ten to 30 years in prison and fines up to $10,000
- Level 1 felony: Twenty to 40 years in prison and fines up to $10,000
The court may add additional years when the defendant has a previous conviction related or unrelated to the current conduct. For defendants prosecuted under federal law for white collar offenses, the sentence may depend on the amount of loss the victim(s) sustained.
If you are convicted of a white collar crime, an experienced white collar crime defense lawyer is necessary to help minimize the penalty or even negotiate a favorable plea deal to help lower the potential sentence.
White Collar Crime Defense: The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations represents the length of time the prosecutor has to charge you with a white collar crime before losing that right. While each crime may not have a statute of limitations, Indiana assigns periods of time to each level of crime ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. Failing to arrest a person within the statute of limitations results in a ban on prosecution for the crime.
Under Indiana Code § 35-41-4-2, the prosecution must bring misdemeanor charges within two years of commission the crime and Level 3, 4, 5, and 6 felony charges within five years of the commission of the crime. However, there are certain exceptions to those deadlines. A white collar crime defense attorney should evaluate the facts in your case to protect you from late prosecution.
Indiana White Collar Crime Defense Attorneys
A strong white collar crime defense is essential to maintain your freedom, financial security, and future. If you’re under suspicion or investigation for a white collar crime, the best path to that future is hiring an experienced Indiana white collar crime defense lawyer as early in your case as possible. That’s why people call Keffer Hirschauer LLP. We work with you at all stages of your case, from investigation through trial and beyond. For a free consultation and the first step toward your future, call (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form.