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Proposed reforms in white collar sentences spark debate


Recently, a U.S. federal prosecutor spoke at a symposium in New York and denied a proposed reform for the sentencing of white collar criminals. It was argued that current sentencing guidelines ensured tough but fair sentences and that any changes in the sentences of white collar crimes would need to be reviewed by the Justice Department.

The prosecutor stated that while the Justice Department would oppose the wholesale changes in the sentencing of white collar crimes proposed by defense lawyers and some judges, it would be open to limited changes that could reduce the sentences in some fraud cases. For example, she stated that some categories of cases, such as securities fraud, may require that changes be made in sentencing guidelines to ensure that the financial loss suffered as a result of the crime does not overstate the seriousness of the offense.

The current sentencing guidelines for white collar crimes have been criticized by the American Bar Association and others for emphasizing the financial loss caused by the crime over all other factors. This in turn often results in punishments that are too severe for the crime. The prosecutor argued that such a reform was unnecessary. She also noted that in especially egregious cases, such as Ponzi schemes, courts impose lengthy prison terms based in the financial loss suffered from the crime.

White collar crimes are those committed for financial gain, and they typically involve some element of deception. These offenses include fraud and embezzlement, where one takes property or money that has been entrusted to him or her and using it for their own financial gain. These offenses are typically punished with long jail sentences, substantial fines, and a restitution penalty to be paid back to the victims.

Anyone accused of a white collar crime is entitled to a vigorous criminal defense and a presumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants have the right to question witnesses, dispute the admissibility of evidence, and take other measures to defend their freedom from incarceration. A strong defense could reduce or even drop the charges. In order to develop a defense, it is crucial to fully understand the situation and the defense process.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "U.S. Prosecutor cautions against white-collar sentencing revamp," Nate Raymond, Sep. 18, 2013

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