White collar crime refers to a number of serious offenses that – although nonviolent – frequently involve the theft or fraudulent acquisition of significant amounts of money. Because of this, those charged with white collar offenses can expect substantial prison sentences and significant criminal penalties if convicted.
Fortunately, white collar crimes are often difficult for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and depending on the specifics of your case, there may be a number of defense strategies available that could help your case.
Below, we’re going to discuss the basics of white collar crime in Minnesota, then detail some of the defense strategies commonly used to successfully fight these types of charges. If you are facing white collar crime charges, a skilled Minnesota criminal defense attorney can help evaluate which defenses are most applicable to your case.
White Collar Crime in Minnesota
Common forms of white collar crime include credit card fraud, embezzlement, Ponzi schemes, money laundering, tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud, insider trading, and extortion.
White collar crimes are increasing both nationally and in Minnesota. This means that we can expect increased efforts from state and federal law enforcement to catch and prosecute white collar crime. Further, law enforcement officials may become overzealous in their initiatives to crack down on white collar crime, increasing the chance of wrongful accusations.
Defenses to Minnesota White Collar Crime Charges
As with any criminal proceeding, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution. This is known as the burden of proof.
Because white collar crime is often committed remotely, it can be surprisingly difficult for the prosecution to prove conclusively that a defendant committed a criminal act. Further, the prosecution must prove that the defendant acted with intent.
All of these limitations faced by prosecution mean that your defense attorney may be able to poke holes in the case against you using one or more of the following white collar crime defense strategies:
In some cases, it may be possible to offer up enough evidence to sufficiently raise doubts about your guilt. For example, if you have been wrongly accused of embezzlement, an independent investigation on the part of the defense may offer helpful evidence that you did not in fact embezzle the funds that are unaccounted for.
The prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a crime. Often, it is not possible for prosecutors to obtain sufficient evidence to prove your guilt, but they may still opt to take the case to trial in hopes of winning a conviction anyway.
If there is insufficient evidence, a good defense attorney will be able to poke holes in the prosecution’s case, arguing that there is not enough evidence to prove your guilt.
Absence of Intent to Commit a Crime
Most white collar crimes consist of some form of fraud. In order to be guilty of fraud, you must commit an action with the intent to deceive. For example, if you are raising money for a charity that is shut down before you are able to pay out the funds, this would not be considered fraud, as you did not raise funds with the intent of not giving them to the charity.
Not all false statements can be considered fraudulent. In order to constitute fraud, a false statement must relate to an existing fact. Also, expressions of opinion are not considered fraud. Your defense lawyer can help evaluate whether any statements you allegedly made in commission of the alleged offense are legally considered to be fraudulent.
Entrapment occurs when law enforcement compels an innocent individual to commit an offense they otherwise would not have committed, as sometimes occurs in sting operations. However, simply providing the opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment – you must be able to argue that you otherwise would not have committed the act.
If you are facing charges as a result of a sting operation, your attorney can help evaluate the specifics of the incident and determine if you have a solid case for entrapment.
Duress is applicable when the defendant believes that some sort of harm will befall them or their loved ones if they do not commit a criminal offense. For example, if you are an accountant or other financial professional, a criminal could pressure you to launder money or commit other forms of financial fraud by threatening to harm you or a loved one if you do not comply. In this scenario, your lawyer would be able to argue that you acted under duress, and therefore are not guilty of the financial fraud in question.
Which of these strategies should you use? That depends on a number of factors. In fact, your attorney may decide that something completely different would offer you the best chance at success – it’s different for everyone.
However, understanding some of the most commonly used strategies can give you a sense of how you might be able to fight back and attempt to clear your name.
About the Author:
A former prosecutor and lifelong Minnesotan, Christian Peterson has handled hundreds of criminal cases from both sides of the aisle since he began practicing law in 2006, as well as a wide variety of family law matters. This background allows him to look at situations from all angles and anticipate which arguments the other side may use, increasing his clients’ chances of success. His work has been recognized by the American Society of Legal Advocates, the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, and National Trial Lawyers, and he has a perfect 10/10 rating from Avvo.