Domina Law Group pc llo's white collar criminal defense work is varied
and significant. Our work has ranged from executives charged with homicide
to theft of government property, white collar conspiracy, tax evasion,
false claims, bank fraud, wire and mail fraud, securities fraud (including
stocks and commodities), arson, and insurance fraud.
The term "white collar crime" is used to refer to a category
of illegal or deviant conduct. Sociologists and criminologists do not
necessarily agree about what the term means. "White collar crime"
has been called "fundamentally awkward," as a descriptive term,
but it persists, proliferates, and enjoys acceptance though it lacks a
Seventy (70) years ago, American criminologist Edwin Sutherland used the
term "white collar crime" in a presentation to the American
"White collar" in connection with "crime" is a phrase
that draws attention to the characteristics of a person or entity, focus
on the qualities of the offender and not the offense, and result in some
adverse branding at the time criminal proceedings commence.
Hundreds of law firms and thousands of lawyers now hold themselves out
as "specialists" in "white collar" criminal defense
work. It seems extremely likely the vast majority have never tried a white
collar criminal case.
On the other hand, the prosecutorial function recognizes the value of experience
in litigation. A significant number of federal prosecutors have, in fact,
developed an expertise, and a specialization, in the white collar criminal area.
Who are White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyers?
Lawyers in big law firms and little ones hold themselves out as criminal
defense lawyers. Some emphasize expertise in representing individual or
corporate defendants in criminal cases. Others highlight corporate compliance
programs and conducting internal investigations. Most claim expertise
in complex procedural and evidentiary issues. Lawyers with great reputations
at handling criminal cases in a particular locale may actually have little
or no experience at dealing with the complex intricacies of white collar
crime. They may choose, instead, a blustering defense practice, witty
negotiations with a prosecutor, and deal making in the form of plea bargaining,
to achieve middling outcomes, increasing the numbers of criminal cases
they have handled, but not providing prosecution-avoiding services as
frequently as could be done with more effort and focus.
Criminal defense work includes negotiations, a sense of a case's timing
and rhythm, and an absolute focus on the charges, their strengths, and
their weaknesses, as an aid to understanding one's self well enough
to take steps necessary to achieve an optimum result. Often, the optimum
result for a person targeted in a white collar investigation is the one
that gets the least attention – no fanfare and avoidance of indictment
through intelligent pre-indictment work.
What Can be Done?
Most important steps occur at the earliest stages of criminal investigations.
At once, is the time to act thoughtfully, and with significant energy.
First and foremost, the client needs to choose someone to talk to in confidence—even
if not ultimately the lawyer who might become responsible for the case
in the courtroom during trial, if necessary.
Choosing a lawyer gives a client a way to talk and gives protection from
the government's eyes from what is said between the client under investigation
and the lawyer engaged to help. In most states there is no privilege for
communication between a client and an accountant unless the accountant
is helping the lawyer with a criminal defense. The target of the investigation
must react in kind to the risk posed and must not delay or look for comfort
in known relationships. Early, an effort should be made by the engaged
lawyer to identify the potential crimes, summarize them and their elements
of proof, research the law and prepare a memorandum for the clients about
what crimes exist which may be of concern, their elements of proof, their
defenses or special defenses, and their weaknesses.
This work should include comprehensive review of the history of the legal
concern. If tax returns are involved, they must be reviewed, and reevaluated
by a new accounting firm. The new firm must be given a careful charge
by the lawyer, or the client through the lawyer in some rare circumstances.
Sentences and potential outcomes should be explored. The abstraction of
what could happen should be diminished, even if it is succeeded by an
unpleasant reality. The client should know what might happen – both
emotionally in general terms and legally. This process must involve realistic
teaching, perhaps an example of federal sentencing guidelines, and an
understanding of what can influence the court, ultimately, toward a beneficial
outcome even in a bad setting.
The client's activity must be understood. Its weaknesses must be accepted,
understood, and dealt with. This may mean the client must be told how
bad things can be, and work backwards to how the worst can be avoided.
Caution about denial, avoidance, indecision, and wrong decisions, must
all be considered.
Strategic decisions about evidence gathering, witnesses, avoidance of any
appearance of evidence destruction, altering, or witness tampering, acceptance
of bad facts and efforts to ameliorate them to the extent possible, should
all be considered. An early understanding of the risks and benefits of
approaches to defense must be made. Early assessment and full client disclosure
are essential. Only intense early effort can maximize prospects for success
by either avoiding indictment, or achieving acquittal.
White collar criminal defense is unlike civil practice. It is unlike other
areas of criminal defense.
A successful white collar criminal defense lawyer must have the gift of
instilling confidence while insisting the client listen and follow through.
White collar criminal defense is nerve-wracking, demanding, and difficult.
If courtroom drama must occur, preparation will produce it. If it can
be avoided, preparation will do that, too.
Domina Law Group pc llo's white collar criminal defense activities,
and the broad range they cover, have allow the firm to understand that
care for a prominent person who is targeted in a criminal investigation,
includes ministry to the person's family, attention to the target's
mental health and stability, and aggressive, pro-active legal counseling
about what can, and what must not, be done with personal or business books,
records of account, historical activities, and lifestyles.