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Cobb County Criminal Defense Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / Understanding the Differences Between White Collar and Blue Collar Crimes

Understanding the Differences Between White Collar and Blue Collar Crimes


The terms “white collar” and “blue collar” for crimes committed are used as basic categorizations for crimes based on the accused person’s social status. These are always case by case basis, and determine how an individual’s case will be handled. Understanding what blue and white collar crimes are considered is important for a case as both are taken seriously at a state and federal level.

“White collar crime” was coined in 1939 from President Edwin H. Sutherland when giving a presidential address titled “White-Collar Criminality”. After this was used, the term was commonly used to describe non-violent crimes motivated by a desire for financial gain. “Blue collar crimes” was the term created in the 1920s, to refer to Americans that perform manual labor jobs. Darker clothing was often worn to make sure stains that occurred at their jobs to be less noticeable, and would wear uniforms that had blue collars. These workers were typically paid low hourly wages, and the reason these crimes are separated is because of division of social class.

White Collar Crimes

White collar crimes have been referred to as crimes committed by higher social status individuals with upper-level occupations and usually committed in a business setting. These crimes are generally non-violent in nature, and include:

  • public corruption
  • health care fraud
  • security fraud
  • money laundering
  • embezzlement
  • forgery
  • wire fraud

White collar crimes usually take money from employers, neighbors, family members, and others. These crimes often involve dozens, even hundreds, of victims who have no idea about the crime being committed, as the target of the crime is usually a corporation rather than one sole person.

The guidelines for federal laws with white collar crimes are usually utilized at a state level when it comes to sentencing. In Georgia, there are different penalties for each type of white collar crime charges:

  • Fraud is the most common type of white collar crime, and involves imitating someone else to take funds out of a real owner’s account, or assist in identity theft. This is a felony that is punishable by 1 to 10 years in jail, with a fine up to $100,000, or both.

  • Credit card fraud is when someone obtains goods using another person’s credit card information, and obtains unauthorized funds from an account. This is punishable by a fine no more than $5,000, with 1-3 years in prison.

  • Identity theft is deliberately using someone else’s identity to gain financial advantage, obtain credit, or take advantage of other benefits. This is punishable by 1 to 10 years in jail, with a fine up to $100,000 or both.

  • Tax evasion is illegally avoiding taxes that an individual or business is obligated to pay, or when tax forms are filled out inappropriately. Depending on the situation, tax evasion may be considered a misdemeanor, and serve up to 1 year in jail time.

  • Money laundering is hiding illegally obtained money, through possible drug sales or other illegal transactions. Occasionally, money laundering is dealt with federally when banks are involved. A sentence for money laundering can be up to 20 years in prison.

Blue Collar Crimes

Blue collar crimes are sometimes referred to as “street crimes”, and tend to involve drugs, violence, or sexual activities. Stereotypically, blue collar crimes are committed by lower-class people with fewer means that are driven by emotion and necessity.

Typical blue collar charges involve:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Drug crimes
  • Arson
  • Destruction of property
  • Burglary or shoplifting
  • Retail fraud
  • Sex crimes
  • Prostitution
  • Assault

Most often these crimes are charged as a result of police “working the street” rather than investigators uncovering a large hidden scheme. Police and prosecutors typically have less to explain with a blue collar case, and have less things to connect between a defendant and their victim.

Criminal Law Defense with Andrew L. Schwartz

Stereotypes in place about who commits what crime based on their social status is false. People who are well-off can be charged with a blue collar crime all the same as a less fortunate person being involved in a white collar crime scheme. These labels are still common because they describe how each crime is investigated and prosecuted differently. Having a criminal defense lawyer at your side can help in proving your case with knowledge and experience in the judicial system.

At Andrew L. Schwartz Law we are dedicated problem solvers to defend clients with experienced and proven legal defense strategies. We specialize in all types of criminal cases, taking time to explain your options and ensure a full understanding by keeping you involved throughout your case.

Andrew L. Schwartz is a highly experienced former prosecutor and will tenaciously defend you using his experience to provide the best solutions for your legal case. You don’t have to carry the burden alone when facing criminal charges, contact us today to help you build a strong case.

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