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The Treatment of White-Collar Cases: The US Sentencing Commission Guidelines

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At the margins, the current Federal Sentencing Guidelines for fraud and other white-collar offenses are too severe. Even when a corporate leader has engaged in massive fraud affecting thousands of people, such as what occurred at Enron, sentences of twenty or more years hardly seem necessary to satisfy the traditional sentencing goals of specific and general deterrence—or even retribution.

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Perhaps the Guidelines altered the paradox for actual sentences, examined in this study as sentences conditioned on final offense levels, by taking many in/out decisions, meaning decisions of whether or not to impose any prison time, away from judges. The severity effect may be less powerful under the Guidelines because judges have less discretion than before in choosing whether to sentence offenders to prison, yet the leniency effect may be just as strong as it was before the Guidelines were enacted. Given that whites tend to be wealthier and of higher status than blacks and Hispanics, the attenuation of the severity effect may have created the disparity in our results. On the other hand, this theory has at least one major weakness: as a practical matter, judges have retained a great deal of discretion in white-collar cases. After all, a large portion of the criminals in our sample (roughly 42% ) fall into "Zone A," the section of the Sentencing Table in which judges have a choice as to whether to imprison an offender. Judges also retain a great deal of discretion in meting out fines because the ranges on the Fine Table are so wide. Still, it may deserve further consideration. The Yale Studies' hypothesis of the leniency and severity paradox might also shed some light on why conditioning sentences on base offense levels reverses our findings. Perhaps base offense level does not account for the factors that, pre-Guidelines, the Yale Studies found encouraged severity against high status defenders.

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White collar crime is a term with no lawful meaning. It is, however, a basic and generic definition that describes clean crime, as opposed to dirty crime (Podgor, 2009). White collar crime is not acceptable. What makes white collar crimes seem acceptable is the fact that it is much harder to seize criminals who are involved in white collar crimes than in blue collar crimes (Strader, 2006). In conclusion, these criminals can escape with a lot of funds for the same endeavor as a normal criminal. It is also hard to seize white collar criminals since their friends are responsible for writing the laws. White collar crimes refer to crimes that are financially motivated, as well as diplomatic crimes, which are committed for unlawful monetary gain (Israel, 2009). Several experts who carry out white collar crimes are never exposed. The individuals that get caught can face federal or state charges plus felony penalties (Kelly, 2002)

White collar crimes are still prevalent in the United States since ordinary white collar cases are still prevalent in the country. These cases include: bribery, fraud, stock manipulation, securities fraud, embezzlement, computer fraud, Medicaid fraud, extortion, hedge fund fraud, as well as a mortgage broker fraud among others. The crimes also entail money laundering, bribery plus tax evasion (Perskin, 2011). These crimes are carried out with the intention of financial or economical gain. They, however, go unnoticed for years. The crimes are also common since they keep on causing serious issues to taxpayers in America, in surplus of two billion every year.

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In short, the solution to remedy the sentencing disparity for white-collar criminal defendants in Ohio is apparent and simple: adopt the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

This successful and established national framework can help guide Ohio to implement a clear and uniform sentencing structure. Without this vital change, judges in Ohio retain vast discretion to determine and implement arbitrary sentences. Judicial discretion creates disparities and bias when sentencing any criminal defendant. It is common sense that a defendant’s conduct should determine their final punishment, not Ohio’s flawed sentencing procedures.

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Israel, J. (2009). White collar crime: Law and practice (American casebooks). Racine, Wisconsin: West Publishing.

Kelly, S. (2002). Understanding white collar crime. San Francisco: Lexis Press.

Perskin, B. (2011). Common White Collar Crimes. New York: HG, Global Legal Resources.

Strader, J. (2006). Understanding white collar crime. New York: Matthew Bender & Co.

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