white-collar crime | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

White-collar crime refers to nonviolent, financially motivated criminal activity committed by individuals or businesses, often involving fraud, bribery, or embezzlement.

White-collar crime is a type of criminal activity that typically involves financial or economic motives and is committed by individuals or businesses. The term “white-collar crime” was first coined by the sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939, and it has since become a widely recognized concept in the field of criminology.

Examples of white-collar crime include fraud, bribery, embezzlement, insider trading, money laundering, and tax evasion. These crimes are often committed by individuals who occupy positions of trust or responsibility, such as corporate executives, bankers, accountants, and government officials. In many cases, white-collar crimes are carried out over a period of time and involve complex schemes designed to deceive or defraud victims.

One of the key characteristics of white-collar crime is that it is nonviolent in nature. Unlike traditional “street crimes” such as robbery or assault, white-collar crimes typically do not involve physical force or threats of violence. Instead, these crimes rely on deception, manipulation, and exploitation of trust to achieve their aims.

Another important feature of white-collar crime is that it often involves large amounts of money or other valuable resources. In some cases, white-collar criminals may steal millions or even billions of dollars, causing significant harm to individuals, businesses, and even entire economies.

Despite the serious nature of white-collar crime, these offenses are often difficult to detect and prosecute. The complex nature of many white-collar crimes, combined with the sophisticated techniques used by perpetrators, can make it challenging for law enforcement officials to identify and investigate these offenses. Additionally, the high level of education and social status often held by white-collar criminals can make it more difficult for prosecutors to secure convictions.

In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the importance of addressing white-collar crime and holding perpetrators accountable. This has led to increased efforts by law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute these offenses, as well as greater public awareness of the harm caused by white-collar crime.

Overall, white-collar crime represents a significant challenge for the criminal justice system, requiring a combination of specialized knowledge, resources, and tools to effectively identify and prosecute these offenses. By understanding the nature and scope of white-collar crime, law enforcement officials, policymakers, and the public can work together to promote greater transparency, accountability, and fairness in the world of business and finance.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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