Featured News 2014 White Collar Criminals Push for Lighter Sentences

White Collar Criminals Push for Lighter Sentences

The United States Sentencing Commission recently eased penalties for nonviolent drug offenders, and defense lawyers are petitioning the Commission to consider lighter penalties for white-collar criminals as well. The U.S. Sentencing Commission is a government agency that establishes and changes sentencing guidelines for courts.

White collar crime penalties too strong?

The United States Justice Department is seeking a review of the current sentencing guidelines. Judges are not required to follow sentencing guidelines but they provide consistency and structure in rulings. Current problems with overpopulated prisons make the guidelines for some white collar crimes seem strict,

White collar crimes are generally sentenced in relation to the amount of money involved. Recent drug crime sentencing regulations have begun to focus less on the quantity of possession amount, and advocates for lighter white collar crime restrictions are hoping that the same could apply to the amount of economic loss.

The American Bar Association put forth a proposal in 2013 that suggested placing increased emphasis on the intent behind the crime and not the financial loss. Factors such as the sophistication of the scheme, motive, length, and whether the defendant made any financial gains would be weighed more heavily. This could help small players in large schemes get lighter sentencing than they previously would have. Differentiating between the wide range of economic crimes can make a huge difference for those that have been convicted.

Too close to the 2008 financial crisis for change?

While the 2008 financial crisis is still a thought in the mind of the public, it may be hard to drum up sympathy for white collar criminals. Sentencing crimes almost seem too lenient for those like Bernie Madoff and others that have driven entire companies into bankruptcy. . Further, drug crime restrictions seem exceptionally harsh considering the unprecedented legalization and acceptance of marijuana in the United States. Non-violent drug offenders make up around half of the prison population and many of these sentences unfairly target racial minorities. White collar crimes do not nearly have the same amount of financial and social impact.

The last change to the guidelines for economic crime convictions occurred over a decade ago. At that time, the penalties for economic crimes were tightened.

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