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Does white collar conviction result in a shorter sentence?

You may be one of many New Yorkers who believe that people convicted of white collar crimes are better off than people convicted of other crimes because the former receive lighter sentences. Forbes cites a recent study arguing that is not necessarily true. Rather, sentences for white collar crimes seem less severe because they are often shorter than what the federal sentencing guidelines recommend. 

Some judges choose to sentence a convict according to the federal sentencing guidelines because it is less likely that an appeal will overturn the decision. Other judges believe that the sentencing guidelines are too severe and hand down a lighter sentence. Because the majority of those convicted of white collar crimes receive shorter prison terms than those recommended in the guidelines, it creates the false impression that white collar crimes result in reduced sentences, according to the study. 

Federal sentencing guidelines do not make hard-and-fast suggestions as to how long of a prison term a judge should hand down. Rather, there is a calculation that takes place as part of every federal sentencing hearing that uses a point system to gauge certain criteria specific to the case, which can include the following:

  • Number of victims
  • Level of sophistication
  • Dollar amount involved in the alleged crime

There is disagreement about the use of federal guidelines when sentencing those convicted of white collar crimes. Some judges feel that the guidelines are too harsh and arbitrary, while others embrace them. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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