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Advocates push for financial crime sentencing reforms

People charged with financial crimes like embezzlement, financial fraud and insider can face stiff penalties under federal sentencing guidelines, which often call for lengthy prison terms and costly fines. Recently, sentencing reform advocates are calling for a revision of those guidelines in order to lighten the penalties for many white collar crimes.

A previous set of reforms that went into effect earlier this year eased penalties for many people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. In the past, federal sentencing guidelines for drug crimes relied heavily on the amount of drugs involved, without much regard for other circumstances that may have been involved. New drug sentencing guidelines de-emphasize quantity as a factor and instead rely on other factors such as whether the offense involved an act of violence.

Defense lawyers and other advocates who favor the proposed white collar crime reforms say that similar changes should be made to sentencing guidelines for financial crimes. Specifically, they say, less emphasis should be placed on the amount of money involved and more on the specific circumstances of the crime. Under current sentencing guidelines, people charged with financial offenses often face harsh penalties even if their role in the crime was relatively minor -- and in some cases even if a crime was planned but never completed.

Depending on the circumstances, people arrested for financial fraud and other white collar crimes in Minnesota may face charges in the state or federal courts. For those who are charged with federal offenses, the proposed reforms could have a significant impact on the penalties they might be facing if convicted. Be sure to get advice from a lawyer if you are charged with embezzlement or any other financial crime.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Sentencing changes sought for business crimes," Eric Tucker (Associated Press), Aug. 13, 2014

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