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White collar crime often given lenient sentences

Embezzlement. Fraud. Inside trading. Tax evasion. Even though white collar crimes like these hurt people as much as other property crimes in Colorado, the respected citizens who commit these crimes are often regarded with a mixture of envy and fascination when exposed. They tend to be discreet and professional, perhaps concealed behind a business suit or doctor's uniform. Their stories make gripping, glamorous novels and television dramas. And, according to some legal experts, they are rarely arrested - regardless of the severity of their crime.

This may seem unfair, but most white collar crimes involve some form of property theft. If a thief with a high income is jailed, they will not be able to pay back their debts to the victims. Their imprisonment will impact their families, their ability to contribute to charities (which many white collar criminals do, to conceal their activities), and otherwise contribute to society. And unfortunately, solvency is still a factor in the justice system today. It affects the ability to pay bond, hire an attorney, and repay debts. It also can affect a sentence. If probation better allows an embezzler to repay stolen funds, it may benefit all concerned for that criminal to stay employed and in society.

Lenient sentencing for white collar crimes happens throughout the U.S. There are several ways a court can achieve this: Some states may offer special programs that allow records of the crime to be erased after restitution is paid. Others may impose multiple counts of a crime concurrently or consecutively, which can help mitigate a sentence. The public perception of white collar crime contributes to this leniency as well. If a masked burglar broke into a stranger's house and stole $20,000, and another in a business suit stole it quietly from employee paychecks, it's likely the burglar will receive the greater sentence even though the theft was equal, and neither crime was violent.

Yet this trend may be changing. When a federal judge sentenced Bernie Madoff to 150 years in prison for skimming almost $65 billion off unsuspecting Wall Street investors, a new precedent was set. While white collar criminals still can often count on a lenient sentence, it's important to have the right legal support. A Colorado Springs criminal defense attorney can provide advice and advocacy to help reduce a sentence, if it would impede one's ability to repay those affected.

Source: Officer.com, "White-Collar Criminals Often Avoid Prison Terms" Adam Brandolph, Jan. 21, 2014

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