White collar crime is an umbrella term for almost any nonviolent, financial crime. The “white collar” reference is a bit obscure now, but this term generally refers to lower-level accountants and clerks who have access to a company’s finances but are not professional lawyers or accountants. “Blue collar workers” are usually construction workers or other semi-skilled laborers.
If the value of goods allegedly stolen is low enough, white collar crimes like embezzlement are misdemeanors. If that’s the case, and the defendant pays restitution, prosecutors often offer pretrial diversion.
But most white collar crimes are felonies. To be blunt, if a defendant has the skill to surreptitiously move money into illicit accounts, the defendant will probably not stop at a misdemeanor level. Felony cases are much more complex, especially those involving financial crimes. However, an experienced St. Paul criminal defense attorney can deal with them one step at a time.
Most, but not all, white collar criminal cases go to a grand jury. In many respects, this investigative body is just like a trial jury. But whereas trial juries determine guilt or innocence, grand juries determine probable cause. There is no precise definition of this term in Minnesota law. But generally, “probable cause” means that there is some evidence to connect a defendant with a crime.
For example, assume a police officer clocks me as traveling 51mph in a 50mph zone. That 1mph will not hold up in court, because it is within the radar gun’s margin of error. But that 1mph is enough to pull me over and give me a ticket, because it suffices for probable cause.
The low standard of proof is one reason that defendants should never appear before grand juries. Most grand juries issue indictments over 90 percent of the time. There is another reason as well. St. Paul criminal defense attorneys cannot even be in the room with you as you testify.
The “do not testify” thing is counterintuitive to many financial professionals. These people are used to getting out in front of a problem. But at this point, the defendant’s appearance can only hurt the case. It’s best to wait until the prosecution moves further along so a St. Paul criminal defense attorney can make a bigger difference.
White collar crimes are rather unique in that they hinge upon civilian witnesses. If the alleged victim does not testify, the case collapses.
So, during the pretrial process, it’s often a good idea to pay as much restitution as possible. If that happens, the victim often loses interest in the case. But a St. Paul criminal defense attorney must tread very lightly here. Allegations of bribing a witness or witness tampering must be avoided at all costs.
Additionally, even if the witnesses say they do not want to testify, prosecutors may proceed with the matters. They simply need to subpoena the victim or witness. No evidentiary or testimonial privilege usually applies in these cases.
Nevertheless, this approach is usually at least worth a try. If nothing else, an uncooperative witness makes the prosecutor’s job harder.
The nature of many white-collar crime cases may present a defense as well. Once upon a time, white-collar crime was grabbing money from the cash register when no one was looking. Those days are over. Today’s embezzlement and employee theft cases often involve multiple accounts, electronic transfers, and quasi-legitimate payees. In other words, these investigations have lots of moving parts.
If a St. Paul criminal defense attorney can find a loose link in the chain of events, a not-guilty verdict is a real possibility. Even if the chain does not break in two, prosecutors may be forced to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor. As mentioned above, that’s usually just as good as a not-guilty verdict.
Most criminal cases settle out of court. For the most part, these resolutions are good things. They often feature reduced charges and/or a reduced sentence. Plus, they avoid the uncertainties of trial. No matter how good the defense is, there is simply no telling what will happen when twelve strangers examine the facts.
Unfortunately, the high settlement rate means that many St. Paul criminal defense attorneys take their feet off the gas pedals at this point. Instead of pressing their advantage during settlement negotiations, they are willing to take what the prosecutors give them.
That’s clearly a mistake. It is always a bad idea to negotiate from a position of weakness. Uncertain trials scare prosecutors as well as St. Paul criminal defense attorneys, so that threat should always remain in play. Furthermore, if settlement talks collapse, an open plea to the judge might be an option as well.
WHite collar crimes have serious consequences. For a free consultation with an experienced St. Paul criminal defense attorney, contact Capitol City Law Group, LLC. Go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.