Home > Blog > The Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor White-Collar Crimes in Texas

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The term ‘white-collar crime’ came about in the late 1930s, referring to the white-collared shirts that most professionals wore at the time. White-collar crime is synonymous with many different types of fraud committed in business or government workplaces. We often see high-profile white-collar crime cases in the news, like when Martha Stewart was convicted for insider trading or when Bernie Madoff was convicted for his Ponzi scheme. However, white-collar crime can occur at any level of a business and in nearly any workplace. White-collar crime encompasses several different types of fraudulent crimes, some of which are charged as felonies and others as misdemeanors.

Common White-Collar Crimes

There are many different white-collar crimes as defined in federal and Texas state law. The three main categories of white-collar crime include falsification of financial information, self-dealing by corporate insiders, and fraud connected with mutual hedge funds. Most of us are familiar with insider training, which includes trading based on material, non-public information, and getting a kickback for it. White-collar crime also includes misusing corporate property for personal gain, personal tax violations or financial advantage, false accounting, illicit transactions, and fraudulent trade deals. Most crimes that involve money, fraud, and the workplace are considered white-collar crimes.


Felony White-Collar Crimes

Texas prosecutors charge many white-collar crimes as theft in Texas. Texas categorizes white-collar crimes into felony charges and misdemeanor charges. Felony charges are more serious than misdemeanor charges and carry a penalty of at least one year in jail. Whether a white-collar crime will be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the value of the embezzled or stolen money. when the fraud or theft involves at least $1,500, Texas prosecutors will bring felony white-collar crime charges against the defendant. Even though white-collar crimes are typically nonviolent, the penalties are often harsh. Texas imposes the following penalties for felony white-collar crimes:

  • When the defendant steals between $1,500 and $20,000, they will face between 180 days and two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000
  • When the defendant steals between $20,000 and $100,000, they will be charged with a third-degree felony, the punishment for which includes a jail sentence between two and 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000
  • When the defendant steals over $200,000, he or she will be charged with a first-degree felony. The penalties for first-degree felonies are a prison sentence between five and 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000

These penalties are representative of the minimum penalties a defendant faces when charged with a felony-level white-collar crime. When the defendant has a criminal history, has caused harm to a significant number of people, defrauded an older person, or stole an extravagant amount of money, they will face even harsher punishments.


Misdemeanor White-Collar Crimes

Even though misdemeanor charges are not as serious as felony charges, the penalties can significantly burden the defendant. Typically, when the money or property involved is less than $1,500, the defendant will face misdemeanor charges. The penalty for being convicted of a misdemeanor white-collar crime is typically a prison sentence of up to a year and a fine between $500 and $4,000, or both.

When the defendant steals less than $50, he or she will not face jail time, and the punishment is a fine of up to $500. This type of white-collar crime is categorized as a Class C misdemeanor. When the defendant steals between 50 and $500, he or she will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. The penalty for this type of white-collar crime is a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000, or both.

Finally, when the defendant steals between $500 and $1,500, he or she will face a Class A misdemeanor charge. The penalties for class A misdemeanors include a fine of up to $4,000, a jail sentence of up to one year, or both.


Defenses to White-Collar Crimes in Texas

If you have been charged with a white-collar crime in Texas, the best thing you can do is contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony level fence, you will need to begin building a robust legal defense as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the prosecution needs to prove all of the crime elements beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest legal standard, and your defense strategy should be centered on putting doubt in the judge or jury’s mind about the crime you allegedly committed.

In some cases, you may be able to argue that you were entrapped into committing white-collar crime. For example, suppose law enforcement officials persuaded or convinced you to commit the white-collar crime and would not have committed it without their persuasion. In that case, you could argue that you were not wrapped. You may be able to claim that you were incapacitated due to physical or mental reasons that make you unable to have the required intent to be convicted. 

In other cases, you may have committed the crime under coercion or duress. For example, if someone threatened you or your loved ones in an attempt to force you to commit the crime, you cannot be convicted. Finally, in many cases, law enforcement officers violate the defendant’s constitutional rights by engaging and unconstitutional searches and seizures or by failing to read them their Miranda rights or allow them to contact an attorney.


Contact a Texas White-Collar Crimes Lawyer Today

If you have been charged with a white-collar crime in Texas, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Public defenders typically do not have enough time to provide you the type of high-quality legal defense you deserve. Contact Kenneth N. Cutrer, Attorney at Law, today to schedule your free initial consultation.

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