White collar crimes are perhaps the most commonly committed crimes that happen today. And just like any type of crime, white collar crimes come with punishments. Sure, the punishment may not be as harsh as robbing a bank or committing a murder, but the punishments can be quite harsh on a person’s wallet and, yes, there are individuals who do spend time behind bars. Take Martha Steward, for example. She was found committing what can be considered a white collar crime and she ended up serving time for what she did.

But what exactly are white collar crimes? Many individuals wonder what the difference between a white collar crime and other types of crimes. Some don’t think there is a difference at all. The truth is that there is a difference.

White collar crime is a unique type of crime that is considered to be different in many ways from the more traditional, usually violent “blue collar” crimes. The term was coined by Professor Edwin Hardin Sutherland in 1939 to describe crimes committed by professionals in the workplace. “White collar” refers to the white, collared shirts typically worn by people in administrative, business, and managerial positions.

One of the most common white collar crimes is bankruptcy fraud. This is where an individual may not report all of their assets when filing bankruptcy. A company may also commit the same crime. This is considered fraud because it is possible to receive money back from the creditors in order to assist in getting back on your feet. If assets are not considered and this money is received, then that can be considered stealing. This is something that seems to be occurring every single day.

Convictions and Penalties

Many critics point out that there is a major disparity between the convictions and penalties for white collar crime suspects versus blue collar crime suspects. They state that, because the crimes are typically nonviolent and involve individuals of a higher class, convicts receive shorter sentences and nicer prison accommodations than their blue collar counterparts. While this may be true for smaller cases, major criminals involved in fraud, Ponzi schemes, and other business-related fraud have recently been aggressively prosecuted. Some have received sentences for life in prison, along with huge court-ordered fines and restitution payments.

While the charge depends on the size of the illegal operation and the degree of involvement for each individual, committing a white collar crime typically results in a felony charge. This may seem steep since no one is physically hurt, but these types of crimes can cause considerable financial damage to hundreds or even thousands of people. Very large cases may even impact the regional or national economy to an extent.