Department Of Justice Cracking Down on White-Collar Crime

A new policy set forth by the U.S. Department of Justice states that cracking down on white-collar crime is vital.  According to the document signed by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, “fighting corporate fraud and other misconduct is a top priority of the Department of Justice.”

The Department of Justice’s 6 steps to end white-collar crime

Photo by: Jonathan Mueller

Photo by: Jonathan Mueller

The new policy with the subject Individual Accountability for Corporate Wrongdoing lists 6 ways in which the Department of Justice plans on cracking down on white-collar crime.

1. Cooperation credit only to those who cooperate fully.
There are companies who put on a charade of cooperation to help find and prosecute those guilty of white-collar crimes in their corporations, without disclosing all the known information.  Now they must cooperate fully in order to get any cooperation credit.  Additionally, the Department of Justice must fully investigate, and not rely on all the information being handed to them on a silver platter.

2. Go after the individuals, not just the company as a whole.
Blaming the company for the conduct on one or more individuals is pointless and wastes valuable time.  By focusing on those who guilty of white-collar crime, investigations can finish quickly while the company is able to save face.

3. All attorneys- both criminal and civil- should communicate fully with one another.
If everyone shares information, it’s easier for cases to move forward. Additionally, the sooner another party is privy to knowledge or circumstances in a case, the smoother the proceedings will be.

4. No resolving individual’s charges along with the corporation’s.
If a company is let off the hook, the individual guilty of a white-collar crime can’t be protected or shielded by the company’s resolution.  Any criminal or civil charges related to the guilty individual will not be buried beneath corporate red tape.

5. No delays in charges against an individual once the corporation case is complete.
When cases against a corporation are resolved, there is a time limit as to when charges can be made against an individual for a white-collar crime.  Before the corporation can come to a resolution, the charges of the individuals believed guilty of a white-color crime must be acknowledged.

6. Prosecute all who are guilty of white-collar crime, regardless of their paycheck.
Prosecuting attorneys are always eager to collect hefty fines from those guilty of a white-collar crime, but if the individual makes paltry wages compared to the company as a whole, settling for less or nothing is expected.  This is no longer acceptable behavior, as everyone guilty of a white-collar crime will be projected to face charges and fines.

Problems with the new policy

Everyone cooperates and communicates while saving time and money.  This sounds great, and looks even better in writing; however there are problems with these so called solutions to white-collar crime.

• The likelihood of complete compliance is a big issue, and hard to prove.  Although company officials are expected to disclose all information regarding criminal or civil proceedings, there is no guarantee that they will follow through with those expectations.

• Going after specific individuals instead of the larger corporation leaves it wide open for a company scapegoat.  Who’s going to take the fall for the company?  That will be up to the high level execs to decide.
• Open communication?  Enough said.

• Someone lower on the corporate food chain may not find protection from the company, but shielding of their hierarchy should be anticipated.

• While there may be no “intentional” delay in a case against a company individual, it wouldn’t take long for the case to get lost in the shuffle.

• Although all found guilty of white collar crime may face charges, it wouldn’t be surprising to see fines tailored to the individual or the prediction of financial fallout for the company.

Former Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. argued that when big corporations are taken down, the fallout for the common citizen could be colossal.  Arresting the big fish or executives of large corporations might give the impression of a win for common folk of America, however the consequences of white-collar crime convictions affect everyone.  From the stability of the stock market to the prices handed down to customers, eventually everyone will pay for those convictions.  As a whole, this new policy could prove that Holder was either wrong in his assumptions or unfortunately, he may have been right.

Plea Bargains Not Always a Good Deal

The majority of criminal cases in the United States end in plea bargains; however they are not always a good deal for those facing charges.  While plea bargains have their place, which is obvious seeing how they account for more than 90% of cases, they are not the answer in every situation.  It is important to discuss any offer of plea bargains thoroughly with an experienced attorney.

Benefits of plea bargains

Photo by: Rae Allen

Photo by: Rae Allen

There are many advantages of plea bargains that can benefit the prosecutor, judge, and the defendant. Some of the pros are:

Conviction without the hassle. Prosecutors like plea bargains because they get a conviction which is a win in their book, without the hassle of a long, drawn out case.  As long as both they and their client feel that the punishment justifies the crime, prosecutors are typically more than happy to agree to plea bargains.

No trial. When plea bargains are agreed upon, that case will not need to go to trial.  Judges are aware of how busy the courts can be and will welcome any time they can come to an agreement without scheduling a jury trial which is both time consuming and costly.

Reduced sentencing. Plea bargains are a good alternative to ensure a lesser sentence for a serious crime.  Often plea bargains involve pleading guilty to a lesser crime or pleading guilty to one of multiple similar charges.

Stop before they’re in too deep. If the defendant is obviously guilty of one crime, they are often encouraged to plead guilty to that crime in exchange for plea bargains to dismiss other possible charges.

Little to no time behind bars. The majority of individuals facing charges will do whatever they can to avoid spending any time behind bars.  Often plea bargains can include a hefty fine and community service instead of jail time.  The defendant gets to move on with their life quickly without the worry of how jail time will affect their work and family.

Cost. Savings on cost can affect everyone.  When plea bargains are made, the state no longer has to pay county prosecutors and judges to oversee a lengthy trial and the defendant saves on his attorney charges.

Cons of accepting plea bargains

Photo by: Tori Rector

Photo by: Tori Rector

Accepting plea bargains is not always the best choice.  When the defendant agrees to charges, it can permanently damage their chances in the case.  Reasons when plea bargains backfire are:

Not enough evidence to prosecute. A defendant without a good attorney may think the prosecution has enough evidence to prosecute them.  This will lead them to accept plea bargains offered to them when they could’ve avoided the charges altogether.

Pressure to make a decision. When plea bargains are offered, defendants may feel pressured to accept it quickly without discussing it at length with a credible attorney.  This can lead to surprises during sentencing.

Signing a confession too early. Often, part of plea bargains involves written confessions of guilt.  If a defendant signs a confession then the judge refuses the plea bargain, the defendant is stuck with an admittance of guilt that the prosecution can use against them.

Punishment of the innocent. Those who are innocent may accept plea bargains to crimes they didn’t commit to bring things to an end quickly to avoid bad publicity, cost, or emotional hardship. While they may think that a lessened charge is better, no charges should ever be made for those who haven’t done anything wrong.

Judge can dismiss plea bargains. Similar to signing a confession too early, accepting plea bargains can leave defendants at the mercy of the judge.  If a judge decides to reject the plea bargain, he can throw the book at the defendant with them unable to remove their plea.

A good defense is #1

When it comes to accepting or rejecting plea bargains, a good defense is critical.  An experienced criminal defense attorney (not court appointed) will be more knowledgeable about the charges made along with the advantages and disadvantages of the offered plea bargains.  They can assure that the defendant is left with the best scenario possible.

Selecting the Right Jury

If your criminal case goes to trial, selecting the right jury is important to ensure that you are given a fair trial.  Besides being randomly selected from voter and driver’s license information, potential jurors are further interviewed before becoming members of your jury.

Photo by: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

Photo by: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

Voir Dire A.K.A. Jury Profiling

Do you know the defendant, attorneys, or witnesses?  Have you, a family member, or a close friend been involved in a similar case?  Jurors are initially asked questions like these to determine if they could be biased to one side or the other.  Following those inqueries is a questionnaire that will be answer by each member of the jury.  Questions regarding things as personal as hobbies, employment, & family status are asked to give attorneys an in-depth view of how the juror may be swayed in the case.


Succeeding the questionnaire, attorneys will often have follow up questions for the jurors to help them with selecting the right jury for their side.  Then, each attorney is allowed to strike out a designated number of potential jurors who they feel would not be well suited for the case.  Each attorney can strike out as few as 3 jurors in a civil or misdemeanor case to as many as 20 for a death penalty case.  This is when your criminal defense attorney can nearly hand pick those jurors that will give you a fair trial.  Additionally, if your attorney feels that a remaining juror would not be unbiased in the case, they can attempt to challenge that juror as well.

An Impartial Jury

Any individual facing criminal charges deserves a fair, unprejudiced trial.  This can be accomplished by selecting the right jury.  An experienced criminal defense attorney will know the questions to ask and what to look for in potential jurors to give you a better chance of having your case tried justly.