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Where does the term ‘white collar crime’ come from?

White-collar crime is a term used to refer to non-violent criminal offenses that are often committed by people in a professional or business setting. The term white-collar crime is commonly used to describe fraudulent schemes, embezzlement, insider trading, and other similar financial crimes. The concept of white-collar crime originated in the 1930s and has since become a major area of focus for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors worldwide.

The Origins of the Term 'White-Collar Crime

The term 'white-collar crime' was first coined by the American criminologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939. Sutherland used the term to refer to crimes that are committed by individuals in positions of trust, such as businessmen, politicians, and professionals. Sutherland argued that white-collar crimes were often carried out in a deliberate and systematic manner and were just as harmful to society as more traditional forms of crime.

Types of White-Collar Crimes

White-collar crimes encompass a wide range of criminal activities, but they all share one common feature - they are typically committed by individuals in positions of authority or power. Some of the most common types of white-collar crimes include:

  • Fraudulent schemes: These crimes involve the use of deceit or misrepresentation to defraud individuals or organizations. Examples include Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes, and securities fraud.
  • Embezzlement: This crime occurs when an individual entrusted with funds or assets uses them for personal gain. Embezzlement is often committed by employees who have access to their employer's funds, but it can also be committed by executives or other high-level officials.
  • Insider trading: This crime involves the use of non-public information to buy or sell securities for personal gain. Insider trading is illegal because it gives an unfair advantage to those who have access to privileged information.
  • Money laundering: This crime involves the concealment of the proceeds of illegal activity to make them appear as if they were obtained through legitimate means. Money laundering is often associated with organized crime.

White-Collar Crime in California

White-collar crime is a serious problem in California, just as it is in other parts of the United States. California has a number of laws and regulations in place to combat white-collar crime, including the California Penal Code and the Corporate Securities Law of 1968. These laws provide prosecutors with the tools they need to investigate and prosecute individuals who commit white-collar crimes.

Defending Against White-Collar Crime Charges

If you are facing white-collar crime charges in California, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A skilled lawyer can help you understand the charges against you and develop a defense strategy to protect your rights and interests. Some of the common defenses used in white-collar crime cases include lack of intent, duress, and entrapment.


White-collar crime is a serious problem that affects individuals and organizations of all types and sizes. By understanding the origins of the term white-collar crime and the different types of crimes it encompasses, individuals can better protect themselves and their organizations from falling victim to these crimes. If you are facing white-collar crime charges in California, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help you navigate the complex legal system and protect your rights.

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