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Ambiguity can sometimes attach to white collar criminal charges

Don’t do the crime if you can't do the time.

Well, that's certainly a well-known criminal law maxim, and one that can be conveniently uttered on many occasions by prosecutors, criminal investigators and even judges.

Here's something to be considered, though, that can go far toward diluting the pedantic and even preachy way in which that little truism is sometimes delivered: What if a criminal defendant did not even know that the criminal activity he or she was charged with was in fact unlawful?

That is, what if an accused person lacked any intent whatever to engage in behavior that was subsequently adjudged illegal and that criminal authorities now say can bring serious punitive consequences?

As noted in a recent article on one subset of white collar crime (namely, insider stock trading), ambiguity can be present in a huge way when criminal law enforcers come knocking on a person's door alleging criminal activity.

And the same can easily be said regarding the virtual universe of activities that are commonly denoted within the realm of white collar criminal activity. Centrally, those range from mortgage/bank fraud and corporate embezzling to employee theft and securities-related violations.

As pointed out in the above-cited article, a criminal suspect sometimes has a pretty good indication that he or she is engaging in unlawful activity.

Conversely, though, it can just as easily be the case that an individual targeted for wrongdoing was less than clear regarding the legal implications of business behavior.

"It wasn't easy to figure out" what type of behavior readily comprised insider trading, writes one commentator on that subject who once worked as an industry principal.

"You never really knew what was legit," he says.

That level of uncertainty can sometimes emerge as a big-time concern and element in a white collar criminal case.

A proven defense attorney intimately knows that and can appreciate that simple error, clouded judgment or a complete lack of any real criminal intent contributed to a wrongful act.

Government lawyers routinely prosecute white collar cases with pronounced zeal. A suspect targeted by their efforts often has a compelling need for the strong advocacy of an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney.

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