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Are white collar crime sentences more severe than street crimes?

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | Criminal Law

White-collar crime refers to non-violent crimes that individuals or organizations commit in a professional setting. Examples include fraud, embezzlement, insider trading and tax evasion.

On the other hand, street crimes usually involve violence or the threat of violence and include offenses like robbery, assault and drug dealing.

Nature of harm

When comparing the severity of sentences for white-collar crimes and street crimes, there are several factors to consider. One significant factor is the nature of the harm each type of crime causes. Street crimes often result in immediate physical harm or the threat of such harm to victims. This visible and direct impact can lead to harsher penalties because the justice system aims to protect society from physical danger.

Financial damage and trust issues

White-collar crimes, while non-violent, can cause substantial financial damage and undermine trust in institutions. These crimes can affect many people, especially in cases of large-scale fraud or embezzlement. The indirect nature of the harm can sometimes result in lighter sentences compared to street crimes.

Socioeconomic status and sentencing

Another important factor is the socioeconomic status of the offenders. White-collar criminals often come from more affluent backgrounds and can afford better resources to defend themselves. This situation can influence the severity of the sentences they receive. In contrast, individuals committing street crimes might lack these resources, resulting in harsher penalties.

Efforts for stricter penalties

The justice system has made efforts to impose stricter penalties on white-collar criminals in recent years. According to the SEC, the maximum sentence for insider trading is 20 years. High-profile cases have highlighted the significant damage that financial crimes can cause, leading to increased public demand for tougher sentences. Legislators and judges have responded by implementing more severe punishments for white-collar offenses.

Both white-collar and street crimes are serious offenses that can result in jail time for convicted offenders.


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