What’s The Difference Between White Collar Versus Blue Collar Crime?

Among the many criminal charges prosecutable under North Carolina law or federal law, it can be useful to separate offenses into two broad categories: white collar crime and blue collar crime.

White collar crime generally refers to nonviolent financial offenses, such as identity theft, money laundering, embezzlement, tax evasion, securities fraud, insider trading, mail and wire fraud, other forms of fraud, and similar unethical behaviors.

Blue collar crime is sometimes used to refer to everything else listed in the criminal code. More specifically, it is used to refer to the types of crimes that one might witness clearly on the street, such as assault, drug deals and theft.

What Is The Definition Of Blue Collar Crime?

The term "blue collar crime" does not appear in any state or federal statute, so it doesn't have a precise, official definition under the law. Nonetheless, it is a useful shorthand to describe a wide range of criminal activity that often results in theft, physical injury or property damage.

"Blue collar crime" was coined as a response to "white collar crime," which generally refers to nonviolent crime committed by white-collar workers in office settings. So in theory, blue collar crimes are the offenses more frequently committed by blue-collar workers - but it is a misleading label, because the offenders charged with committing street crime and violent crime come from all walks of life, regardless of social status.

Here's another way to think of blue collar crime: it refers to behaviors that law enforcement officers would quickly recognize as crimes when seen on the street or called to a crime scene. Whereas the evidence of a white-collar charge such as identity theft may only exist on paper or in digital records, requiring an in-depth investigation and search warrants to access, it is easy to identify the alleged perpetrator and the victim of an assault as the offense is occurring.

Some of the most common blue collar crimes include:

Organized crime, confusingly, can lead to both white collar and blue collar charges. Criminal organizations may reap the majority of their profits through white-collar schemes such as embezzlement, money laundering, bribery and fraud. But such organizations are also well-known for enforcing their power and territory through blue-collar offenses like assault. Deviance from a gang's sense of order can result in catastrophic injury or even death.

What Is The Definition Of White Collar Crime?

Like blue collar crime, white collar crime is not formally defined under the law - instead, it's a convenient shorthand to describe a range of financial crimes and other nonviolent crimes. White collar crimes get their name from the fact that they are usually committed by white collar workers taking advantage of their position within a company or government agency to extract some financial gain.

Some of the most common examples of white collar crime include:

  • Insider trading
  • Money laundering
  • Tax evasion
  • Embezzlement
  • Identity theft
  • Mail and wire fraud
  • Ponzi schemes
  • Other forms of fraud

It is impossible to discuss corporate crime without addressing the role that social status plays in the alleged offenses and their prosecution. When alleged white collar criminals are facing a jury, it can be difficult to win the jury's sympathy because white collar workers are generally understood to have a high social status. In fact, the kinds of jobs that can be described as white collar can be found across the economic spectrum, from lower middle class to the top of the upper class.

Regardless of how much money a defendant makes through his or her salary, or how much was allegedly gained through the commission of a white collar crime, prosecutors will often argue that the defendant was already well compensated legally. They will often paint an unsympathetic picture of the defendant, claiming the ill-gotten financial gain was motivated by sheer greed. Prosecutors may also refer to the notion of "elite deviance" - the idea that a society's most rich and powerful members come to believe that they are not subject to the rules that govern other people's conduct.

There is a stigma against alleged white collar criminals, which is why it is crucial to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing white collar charges.

At Roberts Law Group, PLLC, we will conduct a thorough investigation to mount the strongest defense possible. We represent a wide range of clients facing blue collar and white collar charges, from those at small and mid-size corporations to those with direct ties to Wall Street and other major corporate interests.

What To Do If You Are Charged With A Blue Collar Crime

If you have been charged with a blue collar crime, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you get a qualified legal advocate on your side, the better your odds are of obtaining the best legal outcome available.

From the first moment you encounter law enforcement officers, even before any criminal charges are filed, it's important to keep in mind that anything you say to these officers can and almost certainly will be used against you in court. Needlessly volunteering superfluous information to officers can cause confusion and the filing of charges that you otherwise may have avoided. And if charges have already been filed, loose talk can mean the difference between freedom and conviction, with a sentence that may include steep fines or years in prison.

At Roberts Law Group, our lawyers can help you understand the legal implications of whatever charges you're facing, from theft to assault to drug distribution.

Each blue collar offense requires an individualized defense strategy, but a conviction for any of these offenses can negatively affect your life in a big way. You may be facing not only significant prison time, but also a permanent criminal record.

By speaking with a skilled defense lawyer on our team, you can learn more about your legal options and begin to form a strategy for addressing the charges you're facing. Our attorneys will gather a thorough understanding of the details of your case and tailor a response for your specific situation. Whether you are facing a misdemeanor or a felony charge, we will work tirelessly to fight for the best result available.

What To Do If You Are Charged With A White Collar Crime

Like any criminal charge, the accusation of a white collar crime requires a strong and swift legal response. While white collar crimes are often not immediately noticed by co-workers or law enforcement officers, the stakes can be very high for a defendant once a possible offense is uncovered, especially in cases that draw federal charges instead of - or in addition to - state-level charges.

White collar offenses can end up in North Carolina's state courts or in federal court. In either event, white collar cases often rise to the felony level based on the high dollar amount allegedly gained through money laundering, embezzlement, tax evasion, securities fraud, insider trading, Ponzi schemes, identity theft or other forms of fraud.

Take The First Step Toward A Strong Defense

Your first step toward building a powerful defense is to contact a qualified defense attorney as quickly as possible. In fact, there's no need to wait for charges to be filed. If you have been questioned about potential wrongdoing by law enforcement officers or even your own employers, it is in your interest to seek legal counsel sooner rather than later. By securing qualified representation as early as possible, you gain an experienced advocate who knows how to anticipate potential legal jeopardy, and you maximize the time that you and your attorney have to prepare a defense strategy.

At Roberts Law Group, we have successfully fought to get serious charges dropped, reduced, and even prevented charges from being filed in the first place. The sooner we get involved, the better your chances of success.

At Roberts Law Group, we are no strangers to handling complex, high-stakes cases in both state and federal courts across North Carolina. Contact us to discuss your situation: Call 866-630-2389.

View Our White Paper - The Numbers Count - Fraud and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines