Many white-collar crimes can be charged on the state or federal level, and understanding where yours lies can be confusing.
If you are facing an offense on the state or federal level or are unsure where you will be charged, contact the professionals at the Petersen Law Office. We are happy to assess your case and guide you through every step of the process.
Will the government charge you at the state or federal level? The general rule of thumb is that any violation of state law is prosecuted at the state level.
However, you could face federal charges if the crime violates the United States Code or falls under federal jurisdiction. If the criminal activity involves multiple states or crossing state lines, it can be prosecuted in federal court.
However, the two often overlap, and the offense could simultaneously be both a state and federal crime.
What Are White-Collar Crimes?
White-collar crimes are generally non-violent and motivated by financial gain. White-collar crimes often make people think of corporate executives or “white-collar” employees.
Examples of white-collar crimes include the following:
- Money laundering;
- Mail fraud;
- Identity theft;
- Antitrust violations;
- Fraud (insurance, check, credit, and bank fraud); and
- Tax evasion.
Although usually not violent, these crimes still carry the potential for significant prison time, fines, restitution, and a tarnished criminal record.
An experienced attorney can explain the particular charges against you and assess any possible defenses you might have.
Since white-collar crimes can be state or federal offenses, local, state, or federal agencies can investigate. Local and state police will likely investigate if it is a state crime.
Several government agencies operate on the federal level and are tasked with enforcing federal white-collar crimes.
Federal investigative agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).
The circumstances and the nature of the crime will determine which agency investigates the accusations.
Common State White-Collar Crimes
A white-collar crime is generally charged at the state level if the fraud involves a state agency or only involves fraud that occurred within state lines.
Some example offenses include the following:
- Unemployment insurance fraud,
- Workers’ compensation fraud,
- Auto insurance fraud, and
- Healthcare fraud.
Local law enforcement, including county prosecutor’s offices or the Nebraska Attorney General, typically investigate these crimes.
White-Collar Crime Sentencing Factors
Whether on the state or federal level, the punishment for a white-collar crime conviction will vary on a case-by-case basis.
However, there are common factors that judges consider when determining an appropriate sentence:
- Sentencing Guidelines: State and federal laws often set out mandatory minimum and maximum sentences according to guidelines.
- Prior History: When imposing a sentence, the court will consider any prior criminal convictions. The more priors you have, the harsher your sentence will likely be.
- Severity of the Crime: At sentencing, the judge will consider the severity and nature of the crime. As the amount of money and victims increases, the crime severity and the harshness of the sentence also typically increases.
- Mitigating Circumstances: Any factors that tend to decrease the accused’s culpability or the seriousness of the crime is a mitigating factor. Such factors will likely result in a lighter sentence.
If you choose to take a plea or are found guilty at trial, we know how to successfully argue the points above to get you the lightest sentence possible.
What Happens if a White-Collar Crime Is a State and Federal Offense?
In many instances, both state and federal prosecutors can charge a defendant for a white-collar crime because it violates both state and federal law.
Many crimes will remain under state jurisdiction. However, white-collar crimes end up in federal court more often than other types of crimes.
One of the main reasons prosecutors often charge these offenses in federal court is because they are complex.
White-collar crimes often involve complicated financial schemes that require extensive investigation, and this is typically beyond the resources of local agencies.
It can be challenging, if not impossible, for a state prosecutor to bring charges if the crime occurs across multiple states.
White-Collar Crime Attorney
Both state and federal white-collar crimes carry significant consequences. The best way to avoid the negative repercussions is to hire a sharp defense attorney.
For nearly 30 years, the Petersen Law Office has been dedicated to defending the accused and obtaining the best possible result for each client. We have the experience, knowledge, and resources necessary to advocate for you.
Contact us to schedule a no-cost, confidential consultation. Let’s get started on your defense today!