During and immediately following the 2008 financial crisis, there was an appetite to see those responsible punished for the white collar crimes that led to the whole debacle. But some punishments were so insanely harsh that in more recent years there’s been a push to reform federal sentencing.Recently, a federal panel decided to move forward with making reforms to the way federal judges penalize white collar crimes. The reforms would look closer at the intentions behind each person involved in a white collar crime, as well as giving harsher sentences to criminals who severely affected numerous victims and took large sums of money.In practice, what this is supposed to do is protect those who may have been tertiarily involved with something like corporate fraud (for example, employees in lower level positions such as receptionists) without actually realizing what was going on or having any intent to commit a crime. These individuals would receive less harsh sentences, while those truly behind the scheme would be punished more severely.Supporters of these reforms say that changing the guidelines is going to give judges and lawyers more clarity when it comes to expected penalties and sentences regarding white collar crimes. Supporters also argue that the reforms will better reflect our constitutional rights and the intentions of our criminal justice system.Here’s how much this matters if you are charged with a white collar crime in Florida – not at all. At least not in an official way that is reflected in our state statutes.
What Does This Mean for White Collar Crime Charges in Florida
The penalties for white collar crimes in the state of Florida are sometimes hard to predict because there are few strict guidelines regarding sentencing. Generally speaking, sentencing is determined by the amount of money involved in the offense, as well as the classification of the crime.Though there are many different types of white collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement, forgery), most white collar crimes are treated similarly. Because of this, we’re going to use fraud as a representative example. Depending on the specifics involved, fraud can either be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalties for each classification can be found below:
- First Degree Misdemeanor: up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000
- Third Degree Felony: up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000
- Second Degree Felony: up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- First Degree Felony: up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
Because Florida sentencing guidelines are not as strict as those that federal courts are required to follow, it is possible that leniency at the federal level could lead to less stringent penalties in Florida courts. However, expecting that this will happen in your case is a big mistake. If you find yourself charged or learn that you are under investigation, the best thing you can do for your family and your future is to mount a strong defense – and do so quickly.
Speed – and Experience – Is Your Best Defense
A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer with a track record of success in these types of cases will be able to walk you through a number of different strategies and determine which will be most appropriate for your case.But perhaps the most important thing you can do is start fighting back as early as possible. White collar criminal investigations tend to take a long time, and a skilled attorney may be able to hinder the efforts of prosecutors. In some cases, it is even possible to prevent charges from ever being filed.Will the white collar crime laws in Florida ever be reformed? Perhaps. But not today. And if you’re up against a charge or investigation right now, today is all that matters.About the Author:Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he's done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.