Whenever you watch the news, there is a good chance you will hear the reporter refer to a crime as “white collar” or “blue collar.” All criminals look the same on television when they are being taken away in a police car wearing an orange jump suit, but what do those terms mean? Do you need a different Staten Island lawyer if you commit a white collar crime versus a blue collar crime? Neither term is an official legal term, but they are used so often that they require some clarification.
The Old Days
The terms white collar and blue collar crime were originally used to refer to the social or financial status of the criminal. Working class people were generally considered to be committing certain types of crimes such as car theft or assault, so those types of crimes were generally considered blue collar.
People who were higher up on the economic scale were associated with crimes such as insurance fraud and embezzlement, so those crimes were referred to as white collar. But as time went by, the economic status of criminals became twisted and the way those terms were used started to change.
After a while, the focus of the terms “white collar” and “blue collar” crimes shifted to the crimes and not the people committing them. These days, a white collar crime is considered something that is done at a professional level. Accounting fraud and investment schemes are the two more common types of white collar crimes, but anything that involves a level of professional expertise is considered a white collar crime.
A blue collar crime would be something like assault, murder, car theft, or anything that falls more under the manual labor category of crime. A blue collar crime does not require nearly as much planning as a white collar crime, and a blue collar crime can often be easier to prove in a court of law.
The punishments for most blue collar crimes are clearly outlined in state laws around the country. Some blue collar crimes fall under federal laws, and that often brings stiffer penalties. Judges usually refer to a range of years for a prison sentence or a mandatory sentence for blue collar crimes.
The punishments for white collar crimes are often still being developed. It was not until the Enron scandal that laws regarding improper bookkeeping were updated. These days, laws regarding cyber crimes are constantly being developed to cover the new types of white collar crimes being committed.
It used to be that certain types of people committed white and blue collar crimes, and that is how the crimes were categorized. These days, white and blue collar crimes are identified by the type of planning that goes into them and the tools that are used to pull off those crimes.