When it comes to white-collar crimes, Texas judges are rarely lenient.
In Texas, white-collar crime is an umbrella term applied to a wide range of criminal behaviors. Typically, white-collar crimes are non-violent offenses committed for financial gain. Common examples include insider trading, tax fraud, identity theft, counterfeiting, intellectual property theft, and credit card fraud.
When sentencing white-collar crimes, judges in Texas typically follow federal sentencing guidelines, which carry the possibility of long-term imprisonment and heavy fines.
However, there are some situations where Texas judges may be inconsistent when sentencing a white-collar crime. To understand why let’s start by taking a closer look at federal sentencing guidelines.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines for White Collar Crimes
To sentence white-collar crimes, federal guidelines address both the seriousness of the crime and the offender’s criminal background.
To determine the seriousness of an incident of white-collar crime, judges consider base offense levels, the amount of money stolen, and the number of victims impacted.
Base Offense Levels
Federal sentencing guidelines recognize 43 levels of offense seriousness, with the lowest being 1 and the highest being 43.
Every type of crime has a base level offense level that judges use as a starting point when assessing the seriousness of the crime. Most white-collar criminal crimes will be considered to have at least a 6 or 7 base offense level.
Amount of Money Stolen
With white-collar crimes, the amount of money allegedly stolen may increase the offense level. We’ve listed how different dollar amounts may impact the offense level below.
- $5,000 or less: there is no level increase
- Greater than $5,000: increase by 2
- Greater than $10,000: increase by 4
- Greater than $30,000: increase by 6
- Greater than $70,000: increase by 8
- Greater than $120,000: increase by 10
- Greater than $200,000: increase by 12
- Greater than $400,000: increase by 14
- Greater than $1,000,000: increase by 16
- Greater than 2,500,000: increase by 18
- Greater than 7,000,000: increase by 20
- Greater than 20,000,000: increase by 22
- Greater than $50,000,000: increase by 24
- Greater than $100,000,000: increase by 26
- Greater than $200,000,000: increase by 28
- Greater than $400,000,000: increase by 30
Number of Victims
In addition, the number of victims allegedly involved in a white-collar crime may increase the offense level. We’ve listed how the number of victims may impact the offense level below.
- 10 or more victims: increase by 2
- 50 or more victims: increase by 4
- 250 or more victims: increase by 6
Finally, courts may consider other factors that can increase or decrease the offense level. Examples include:
- When an offender was a minimal participant in the crime: decrease by 4
- When an offender knew the victim was vulnerable due to age or condition: increase by 2
- When an offender obstructed justice: increase by 2
Once everything is taken int account, the court takes the final offense level and any criminal history to decide on a sentence.
Inconsistencies in Sentencing in Texas Courts
Although many white-collar offenses are punishable by mandatory minimum prison sentences according to federal guidelines, there are often inconsistencies in how crimes are actually penalized in Texas courts.
Due to these inconsistencies, it is important to have an experienced white-collar crime attorney in your corner if you are facing charges. Your Texas judge may decide to issue lighter, alternative sentences, if they determine the offender is not a threat to public safety and it is in everyone’s best interest.
For example, minor, first-offense white-collar crimes could be penalized with fines, restitution, or community service instead of prison terms. Having the right representation is one way to best ensure your chances of the best outcome in your specific case.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.