All criminal defendants rely heavily on their attorneys for counsel, court representation, and potential plea-negotiations. Each of these traditional attorney functions present unique challenges. Given that all criminal attorneys perform these basic functions, it might be easy to gloss over the distinction between traditional criminal defense attorneys and white-collar criminal defense attorneys. However, the reality is that most criminal defense attorneys are simply not equipped to handle the complex issues implicated in white-collar cases, and the stakes criminal defendants face are simply too high to make the mistake of retaining the wrong attorney.
What are the stakes?
U.S. District Judge David Hittner recently sentenced Stanford accounting chief Gilbert Lopez and global controller Mark Kuhrt to 20 years of jail time each. The sentencing comes down in the wake of years of controversy surrounding the financial scandals that rocked the economy worldwide, amidst widespread concern amongst victims that white-collar criminals are treated with impunity they do not deserve. In short, the atmosphere does not bode well for the criminal defendant facing a jury of his or her peers, and it falls to the white-collar criminal defendant’s attorney to carry out an effective defense strategy.
The particularities of white-collar defense work
While traditional criminal defense attorneys can build a practice that caters to the vast majority of criminal cases, white-collar criminal defense work is distinct and unique area of law. White-collar criminal defense attorneys are faced with unique complaints and allegations relating to insider trading, securities fraud, and complex financial violations. These legal issues relate to a distinct set of federal and state statutes and case law, each of which requires an expertise not typically found amongst all-purpose criminal attorneys. What white-collar crimes usually have in common, and also renders them distinct from the various unrelated crimes that most criminal attorneys handle is the presence of deceit, and the absence of violence. Furthermore, white-collar crimes often involve actions carried out under the authority and direction of a criminal defendant. Such factual circumstances implicate laws of agency and corporate responsibility that run-of-the-mill criminal attorneys simply do not interact with on a daily basis. While every attorney learns the basics of each area of law when they go to law school, only an attorney that practices a particular area of law on a regular basis can truly provide effective representation. When it comes to criminal cases, there is simply too much at stake to place a criminal defendant’s fate in the hands of an attorney with no experience in the relevant field.
Retain an experienced white-collar criminal defense attorney
White-collar criminal defendants may face a more hostile environment today than they have in years, both in the courtroom and in the public eye. It pays to contact and retain an experienced criminal defense attorney that knows the issues implicated in white-collar criminal cases. The reason is simple: when your liberty is at stake, you cannot afford to lose.