You might think all crime is the same – involving guns, gangs, and violence. However, crime commonly depicted in media is usually what is called “street crime” or “blue collar crime.”
There is another type of crime called “white-collar crime.” These terms sound confusing, but they are very descriptive of the kinds of offenses involved in each.
Defining White Collar and Street Crimes
There are many similarities and differences between street crimes and white-collar crimes.
Street crime, also called “blue-collar crime,” is often thought to be committed by stereotypical criminals. These crimes often involve weapons and violence; however, they don’t have to. There is generally an easily identifiable victim in street crime offenses.
On the other hand, white-collar crime is typically committed by business and government professionals (who often wear button-up shirts with white collars). These crimes are non-violent and may be challenging to identify. They may cause significant monetary damage instead of physical harm.
These illegal acts often appear to be general work activities for a white-collar criminal. Despite this, white-collar crimes do have victims. Those victims may be individuals, or the victim may be a business or the public in general.
Types of White-Collar Crime
White-collar crimes often cross state lines and may be federal offenses. They have significant penalties and consequences that can ruin the lives of those accused, regardless of whether they are ultimately convicted.
Some common types of white-collar crime include:
- Corporate fraud
- Money laundering
- Securities & commodities fraud
- Falsification of financial information
- Self-dealing by corporate insiders (insider trading)
- Mortgage and financial institution/bank fraud
- Intellectual property theft/piracy
- Health care fraud
- Identity theft
- Ponzi schemes
- Public corruption
Often multiple law enforcement agencies are involved in the investigations of these crimes. These investigations can take years to complete because obtaining the necessary evidence for a federal indictment can be complicated.
Types of Street Crime
There are generally two types of street crimes – crimes against persons and crimes against property.
Some crimes against other people include:
- Sexual assault
- Domestic violence
Some common crimes against property include:
- Motor vehicle theft
Street crime may be charged in state or federal court. However, local law enforcement often begins the investigation, which may be transferred to federal agencies if criminal charges are initiated.
Public Perceptions of White-Collar vs. Street Crime
People generally think of these two categories of crime differently. There is a negative public perception of street crime, with very few excuses for such behavior. White-collar crime is not as negatively viewed, and the public may be more likely to excuse it for various reasons.
Perceptions of Street Criminals
The stereotypical street criminal may be thought of as an inherently “bad” individual who commits criminal acts purposefully to harm another person. One of the elements of most street crimes is that the criminal had the necessary “intent” to harm another person.
Additionally, the news media covers street crime frequently and highlights it often. Blue-collar crime is generally easier to understand and form an opinion about. The public usually has a disproportionate view of how prevalent street crime is compared to white-collar crime.
Perceptions of White-Collar Criminals
White-collar criminals are often motivated by money and do not want to hurt others. The public may even applaud a white-collar criminal who “sticks it to the man” and defrauds a large company. Public perception of white-collar crime is not as negative as street crimes.
In some cases, white-collar criminals are more affluent and have connections in the professional world. Their behavior may be swept under the rug or ignored in some circles. Although a federal indictment will bring their criminal activity to light, the public may not understand precisely what happened or who has been harmed.
Prosecution and Punishment of Street Crime vs. White-Collar Crime
Although street crime and white-collar crime are different, they are prosecuted and punished similarly. Both types of crime begin with an investigation by law enforcement and charges brought against an individual. You have a right to effective legal assistance no matter what crime you have been charged with.
Street crime is typically prosecuted in state court, and penalties include time in prison and fines— white-collar crime is more often seen in federal courts. Penalties may also include prison time, but fines are usually much higher for white-collar crimes. For example, a conviction for insider trading can result in a fine of up to $5 million.
Instead of prison, white-collar crimes may result in home detention, community confinement, and supervised release. Since these crimes are not violent, defendants may have more options for punishment.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney for Any Type of Charges
You need a criminal defense lawyer if you or a loved one has been charged with a street or white-collar crime. Both categories of offenses result in severe penalties that can affect your entire life.
You need to contact someone with experience with crimes like yours and familiar with relevant laws.