White collar cases are legal proceedings for a broad category of crimes. Though they are executed through different means, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) summarizes the crimes by saying that they involve lying, cheating, and stealing. These cases are generally characterized by non-violence and high levels of sophistication to avoid detection. Examples include ponzi schemes, credit card fraud, and embezzlement. These cases are also generally difficult to prosecute.
One of the initial difficulties in dealing with white collar cases is determining which should or should not be included is this category. That topic alone is a subject of much debate. The term white collar is credited to a sociologist named Edwin Sutherland, and his definition had three main elements. First, the criminal was a person of respectability. Second, the individual was of high social status, and third, the crime was committed in the course of the criminal's occupation.
Profession-related crimes by wealthy and influential individuals such as chief executive officers (CEOs) who swindle their employees' retirement funds or politicians who award contracts based on bribes are still considered white collar cases. The category has greatly expanded, however, to include far more people and acts since Sutherland introduced the term. These include account holders engaging in credit card scams to obtain higher credit limits and motorists staging accidents to defraud insurance companies.
A common element in these cases is that the motive is generally to obtain something. In many cases, it is money, but some people seek credit or material possessions. White collar crimes are non-violent offenses, which lead many to consider them victimless crimes. This assumption is incorrect because annual financial losses from these offenses equal billions of US dollars (USD). Other consequences include the destruction of businesses and severe distress on families.
Another common similarity in white collar cases is that they are often difficult to prosecute due to the methods of execution. Staged accidents are a good example. Consider that there are two cars, vehicle A and vehicle B, which appear to other motorists to be complete strangers. Vehicle A may drive in a reckless manner and prompt a reaction from vehicle B, such as a sudden stop. Vehicle C may crash into the back of vehicle B and be considered at fault for the accident, and everyone in vehicle B will be compensated by the insurance company of vehicle C.
The criminal intent in such a case is extremely difficult to prove. Despite the difficulty, white collar cases are commonly brought to court. There are lawyers who specialize in providing defense for these offenses. Many people argue that justice in these cases is also hampered by the fact that many of the alleged criminals have the means to obtain highly skilled lawyers. As a result, their cases are dismissed at higher rates, or those found guilty tend to receive lighter sentences.