Defending Your Innocence, Part 1: Absence of Intent

White collar crimes are criminal activities committed by an organization or individual to gain money or property through deception. The crimes are non-violent, with the primary intent mainly to enrich its perpetrators. Such crimes include wire fraud, health care fraud, securities fraud, bribery, public corruption and money laundering. Recently, the incidence of white collar crimes has increased thanks to technological advancements and the introduction of modern financial products. The crimes are severe and can attract severe penalties if convicted, which include:

  • Imprisonment
  • Fines
  • Pretrial Detention
  • Forfeitures
  • Community confinement
  • Supervised release
  • Restitution 

In a case where a victim suffers significant financial harm, the defendant is likely to face longer prison sentences. However, the penalty can be reduced if the defendant assumes full responsibility for the crime and complies with the investigations. 

Defending white collar crimes can be more difficult as defending other violent crimes. Typically they involve hundreds or thousands of documents which demonstrate the movement of money and show the actual involvement of the perpetrators. However, it is possible to win the case with a dedicated, experienced lawyer. 

One defense to a white collar crime defense is “absence of intent.” “Intent” in the context of a criminal offense is loosely translated to mean that the offender had a “guilty mind.” “Absence of intent” means that the defendant was not aware that she was committing a crime or breaking the law. For example, the defendant may have been duped into participating in a crime without knowing that they were being used to commit the crime. For example, someone may ask you to allow them to deposit money in your bank account because they don’t have one of their own. In exchange they will give you a portion of the money. An unsuspecting person would think nothing of it. However, if the money was the proceeds of a crime, by allowing the deposit to be made to your account you may have unwittingly become an accomplice to the crime of money laundering.   

There are two types of intent: 

General Intent – this type of intent does not require that the offender have a “guilty mind” so to speak. The intent is not to commit the crime, but rather, to commit an act which (for better or worse) leads to the commission of a crime. A good example would be DUI. The offender’s intent was to drink alcohol, not to drive while impaired. 

Specific Intent – this type of intent means that the offender specifically intended to commit the crime. For example, if someone decides to burglarize a house and steal property from inside, that is an act that was intended to be committed.

It can be hard to prove what a person was thinking when committing a crime. It is up to the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant willingly and intentionally committed the crime. Usually, the court will look to the totality of the circumstances, that is, all of the known facts surrounding the incident, to determine if the defendant had the intent to commit the crime. 

White collar criminal investigations are serious and need to be addressed at the earliest possible stages. If you are the subject of a white collar criminal investigation, Barry M. Wax can defend you against any potential charges. Get in touch today at (305) 373-4400.

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax