|Leading Illinois Criminal Law: Felonies & White Collar Crime Attorneys|
Every crime is defined by a list of elements. In a criminal trial, the prosecutor attempts to prove all the elements of the crime the person is accused of committing. If the judge or the jury decides all the elements of the crime have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused person is guilty of the crime. If the prosecutor cannot prove all the elements, the accused cannot be found guilty of the crime.
The law of conspiracy and the law of aiding and abetting are other general doctrines that apply to a wide range of offenses. A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime. For example, if three people conspire to commit murder, at least one of them takes action to further the conspiracy, and the murder actually occurs, they all can be charged with both conspiracy and murder. Even if a conspirator backs out of the conspiracy, but the other conspirators commit the crime, all conspirators may be criminally liable if the acts were reasonably foreseeable.
A person who intentionally aids or advises another in committing a crime may be guilty of aiding and abetting, and may be criminally liable for the acts of the other person, as well. Thus, if someone intentionally advises another how to commit robbery and lends the robber a car to use in the getaway, both people are equally liable under the law.
The most violent crimes, such as murder and rape, as well as so-called white collar crimes, generally are felonies under the Illinois Criminal Code.
Murder is the unlawful killing of another with intent to kill. Murder is divided into subcategories by degree of seriousness. First degree murder is killing someone with intent to kill or to cause great bodily harm, or knowing that one's actions will cause death or create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm. First degree murder also includes unlawful killing during the commission of a forcible felony. Second degree murder is similar to first degree murder, except at the time of the killing the offender has the unreasonable belief that the killing is justified, or the offender is acting under an intense and sudden passion resulting from being provoked.
Manslaughter and reckless homicide differ from murder because these crimes do not require proof of intent. Under Illinois law, involuntary manslaughter is unintentionally killing another person while engaged in an action that is likely to cause death or great bodily harm, if the action is done recklessly. However, if the cause of death is by a person recklessly driving a motor vehicle, the crime is called reckless homicide. Suicide is taking one's own life. Suicide and attempted suicide no longer are crimes in Illinois. However, it is a crime to induce another to commit suicide.
White Collar Crimes
Although there is no fixed definition of white collar crime, a number of nonviolent crimes frequently are grouped together as white collar crimes. The term "white collar crime" generally is used to describe crimes that have cheating or dishonesty as their common basis. These crimes typically are committed by professionals or entrepreneurs under cover of legitimate business activity. Such crimes may be difficult to prosecute because of their complexity. Often they carry lesser penalties because they are not associated with violence. However, defendants convicted of white collar crimes may incur enormous fines, be ordered to pay restitution, or spend time in jail. Today, there is a trend toward stricter punishment for white collar crimes, as people recognize the financial damage white collar criminals inflict on society.
As a practical matter, it is impossible to describe every activity that fits within the definition of white collar crime, because white collar crime takes many forms. Some criminal actions are prohibited by specific laws narrowly drawn to outlaw a particular activity. Other actions are not covered by specific laws but instead are prosecuted under one or more "catch-all" laws criminalizing dishonest behavior generally.
Generally, the conduct specifically outlawed by federal statute includes:
A person commits computer fraud when he or she knowingly accesses, uses, damages, or destroys a computer, program, or data, or obtains money, property, or services of another in connection with a scheme to defraud. Computer crimes carry severe penalties, especially as the value of the property damaged or stolen increases.
In addition, Illinois law prohibits fraud generally, as well as specific fraudulent acts. In Illinois, fraud includes such crimes as public aid wire fraud and deceptive collections practices. The crime of deceptive practices occurs when a person who has an intent to defraud uses a threat or deception for an unlawful purpose, such as to
There are two general categories of securities fraud. The first involves the sale of securities to investors for far more than their actual value. The second involves the sale of legitimate securities for illegal purposes. An example of the first type of fraud is selling shares in dry oil wells. An example of the second type of fraud is sale of legitimate stock by a broker who conceals information about his or her own involvement with the brokerage company. These acts are prohibited by rules established by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Insider trading prosecutions have been some of the most publicized white collar prosecutions of the 1980s and 1990s. Surprisingly, "insider trading" is not defined in any specific statute; it is a term used to describe insiders (such as officers of a corporation) taking unfair advantage of information to make money or avoid losing money in securities. Generally, insider trading means that an insider with material, non-public information engages in trading without disclosing that information to the public first. These crimes typically are prosecuted under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. However, prosecutors are not confined to using specific securities fraud statutes to prosecute securities fraud. General anti-fraud statutes may be used instead of, or in addition to, specific securities fraud laws. For example, parties engaged in securities fraud may be charged with violating mail and wire fraud statutes.
Self-defense sometimes is used as a defense. The general rule for self-defense is that a person may use any amount of force--except deadly force--that he or she reasonably believes is necessary to prevent immediate unlawful harm to a person. Using deadly force is permissible only when it reasonably appears to be necessary to avoid immediate death or serious injury to a person, or to prevent the commission of a felony in the actor's dwelling. If a person claims that he or she acted in self-defense, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that self-defense was not the reason for the crime.
By itself, intoxication is not a defense to a crime. In rare cases, intoxication works like a defense, if there is proof that the person accused of the crime was unable to form the necessary intent to commit a crime. Someone who is intoxicated may not be found guilty of a crime that requires he or she acted intentionally, but the intoxicated person may be guilty of another crime that does not require intentional actions. In the area of white collar crime, the same defenses are available to defendants as those available in crimes generally. Some people accused of white collar crimes also claim entrapment by the government; they argue they were induced to act, and would not have acted unlawfully otherwise. Another common defense by businesses is that a particular businessperson was acting alone, without the authority of the company behind him or her. Businesses further argue that once it was discovered that an officer or employee was acting unlawfully, the business acted immediately to resolve the situation. Sometimes a business avoids criminal liability altogether if it shows that it took proper action to correct a situation as soon as managers were made aware of a problem. Felonies and white collar crimes carry the strictest punishments, such as lengthy imprisonment, heavy fines, or even death. Federal sentencing guidelines contain a method for calculating fines to be paid by organizations that commit crimes. Businesses that are found guilty of operating for a primarily criminal purpose incur fines equal to their total assets.
Illinois also has laws that allow the authorities to seize property connected with the commission of a crime. For example, any money or other profits connected with computer fraud may be seized by the government. Similarly, a person charged with violating laws connected with controlled substances must forfeit the substances as well as the raw materials used to make the drugs, vehicles and real property used to further the crime, and any money or other proceeds from the sale of the controlled substances.
Some crime victims also have a right to compensation for the crimes committed against them. This means that a crime victim may receive compensation for certain expenses or losses, such as medical expenses or loss of support if the crime victims becomes unable to support dependents. There are requirements that must be met for a victim to get reimbursement, and a victim must file an application for consideration with the Illinois Court of Claims for compensation. The maximum amount a victim can receive from the Court of Claims is $25,000.
Under some Illinois laws, the victim may receive compensation from the person who committed the crime. This is called restitution. For example, a person whose vehicle is stolen may be able to receive compensation for the vehicle. In this case, the state arranges to collect the money from the criminal and sends a check to the victim when all the restitution has been made.
If the court does not order restitution, or if a prosecutor does not press charges, the victim still has the option to seek compensation directly by suing the offender in civil court. This option is discussed more fully in the Process of a Case: Civil & Criminal Chapter.
National Coalition Against Sexual Assault, P.O. Box 21378, Washington, D.C. 20009, phone: (202) 483-7165.
National Organization for Victim Assistance, 1757 Park Road NW, Washington, D.C. 20010, phone: (202) 232-6682. To obtain the free pamphlet, Your Rights if Arrested, contact the Illinois State Bar Association, Illinois Bar Center, Springfield, IL 62701-1779, phone: (217) 525-1760. Crime victims who wish to apply for compensation should apply to the Illinois Court of Claims, Capitol Building Room 213, Springfield, IL 62756, phone: (217) 782-7101.
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