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White-Collar Crimes That Can Be Committed Without Intending to

White collar crime is generally defined as the wrongful diversion or destruction of money or property without the use of violence. These crimes are usually associated with deliberate schemes or malicious intent. However, certain situations can lead to individuals or corporations being held criminally liable even when they lack intention to commit wrongdoing. This is because some laws impose liability for certain conduct and because people can at times be held vicariously liable for the actions of others.

Here are examples of white collar offenses under federal or state law that can be committed without actual intent:

  • Environmental offenses — Some environmental laws allow a company or individual to be fined or otherwise penalized for environmental damage caused by their actions, even if they believed they were acting lawfully. Even accidental spills or unforeseen equipment malfunctions can trigger criminal prosecutions in some situations.
  • Public welfare offenses — This refers to conduct that has been criminalized under the government’s general police power. Examples are laws against sale of alcohol to minors, sale of adulterated food and drugs, creation of public nuisances and unsafe motor vehicle operation. Criminal liability can be imposed regardless of the actor’s lack of intent.
  • Conspiracy — Although the essence of a conspiracy is an agreement to commit an illegal act, the conspiracy itself can be inferred simply from circumstantial evidence. An individual can be charged based on taking overt actions that further the criminal operation, even without proof that he or she has knowledge of the ultimate purpose. Conversely, anyone involved in the conspiracy can be vicariously liable for criminal acts committed by any others involved. The government may also build a case based on willful blindness — basically using evidence to show that you should have known or that you must have had knowledge of the illegal activity based on the circumstances of the case.
  • Insider trading — It is a crime to use material nonpublic information acquired through trust or confidence to make a securities transaction. The inside trade is deemed a breach of an imputed duty of trust owed to the issuer of the security or to its shareholders. The government does not have to prove the individual had actual knowledge that the trade violated that duty.
  • Embezzlement or fraud by employees — A company can be held vicariously liable for embezzlement by an individual who was acting within the scope of their employment while committing the crime. For example, an account manager who skims profits from customers might implicate the company. The same vicarious liability can apply if an employee commits criminal fraud while operating under the company’s name.

To avoid criminal charges of these types, companies and individuals should seek guidance from legal professionals to learn about appropriate preventive steps. These can include implementing robust compliance programs, proper internal controls and thorough employee training. However, if you should face such charges, you need an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney who will fight to protect your rights.

At Tylden Shaeffer, Attorney at Law, P.C. in San Antonio, I represent individuals and companies in white collar criminal cases throughout southern Texas. Call (210) 227-1500 or contact me online to arrange a free initial consultation.

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Case Results
Intoxication Manslaughter – Reduced Sentence

While client was already on probation for DWI when arrested for Intoxication Manslaughter. Client pleaded guilty to the jury and jury awarded probation where State sought prison term from the jury.

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