Understanding Torts and Crimes

For many years I’ve lived with the vague knowledge that crimes and torts are both punishable offenses, but I never bothered to investigate the difference between them till now. So here are some notes I want to share.

First we must break apart the term Law. In the United States “the Law” divides into two categories: Private law and Public law.

Private Law: Torts

As the title implies, this type of law guides the relations of individuals and businesses in a community (hamlet, town, city, county, state, or country). When violations of private law occur, then we say that a ‘tort’ has been committed.

Other subtleties mark torts, such as to whether the infraction was intentional or from an act of negligence. This distinction allows for fair treatment of the wrong-doer, and a fair and just compensation to the injured party. An action against the offender is called a cause of action (civil suit).

The most common torts are:

* Unfair competitive practices
* Slander – a false and oral besmirch on an individual’s reputation.
* Libel – a false and written besmirch on an individual’s reputation
* Personal injury – damages due to accidents, defective products (product liability), and other malpractices.
* Fraud – intentional deceit.

Public Law: Crimes

Public law applies to the relationships between individuals or businesses and society. When an infraction against the community occurs, a crime occurs. It is the job of public defenders -district attorneys- to defend the public interest. An action against the offender is called a prosecution.

Crimes are categorized by Congress as felonies and misdemeanors (also referred to as ‘lesser crimes,” although there are many different types of crimes that fall under each class.

The most common crimes are:

* Break-ins, burglary, theft, robbery.
* Forgery – the intentional altering, distorting, and defacing documents (to include signatures).
* The use of deceptive weights, measures, or labels – Most States have bureaus that supervise the standards set by law: If a motorist asks for 10 gallons of gas, did he actually get 10 gallons? Was it premium or regular? Does the cereal box really contain 10 ounces?
* The ill use of mails with the intention to defraud others.
* Receipt of stolen property.
* Filing fraudulent income tax returns.
* Embezzlement – the misappropriation of funds.

Some crimes, such as embezzlement, may be both: a tort and a crime, as we saw in the case of Bernie Madoff. Not only did the disgraced financier abuse the private trust of his clients, but also the public trust.

For both torts and crimes, common law statutes of limitations apply. This simply means that actions for remedy must be brought within the allowed periods of time, or the case will “run out.”

For military personnel, both torts and crimes are covered under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Unit commanders exercise discretion as to whether to punish under Article 15 of the Code, or to convene a court martial.

Conclusion:

While private law’s purpose is to allow the injured party to recover and be compensated for damages suffered, public law in addition to recovery of damages, frequently punishes transgressors with incarceration.

White Collar Crimes: An Overview

There are many different crimes in the world today. Some of the overlooked crimes fall into the white collar crime category. This category is made up of crimes that do not necessarily “hurt” someone. They often happen in professional settings and include things such as embezzlement, pyramid schemes, and fraud. Many times when people see some sort of corporate scandal on the news, it is about a white collar crime. It has been found that the public as a whole is more willing to forgive people who commit these crimes. It is important to remember that they can result in just as much jail time as any other type of illegal activity.

White collar crimes are frequently committed by people in government or business positions. Many of them are felonies and typically involve some sort of fraudulent activity. There is a long list of crimes including:

  • Forgery
  • Money laundering
  • Insider trading
  • Bribery
  • Copyright infringement
  • Identity theft
  • Commodities and securities fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Any and every type of fraud such as bankruptcy fraud and insurance fraud

The biggest difference between blue collar crimes and white collar crimes is that violence is normally not a factor in white collar offenses. The perpetrators are normally financially privileged, especially in comparison to blue collar offenders. Money is often the main motivation of these crimes and while it causes no physical harm to others, businesses and individuals can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Any office where financial transactions take place and sensitive information is accessed on a daily basis is at risk for crime. Whether it is a corporate, business, or government office, no environment is immune.

The news is often full of corruption and large corporation scandals. These are perfect examples of the magnitude that white collar crimes can reach. One positive side of handling white collar crimes is that the offense can be committed by an entire agency and not just a single person. Civil law suits against companies can occur because of this type of crime. Common crimes that can be committed by the institute and not the individual include price fixing, false advertising, and company overcharges.

While it would stand to reason that technology improvements would provide better security for businesses, technology is actually making it easier for money to be stolen especially by a savvy person. The crimes are facilitated with computers, paperwork, and any other type of electronic device. These crimes result in some sort of benefit from the company or employee. The goal is normally to make money whether it is through stealing or insider trading.

Unlike other crimes, people are not arrested and charged. An extensive investigation normally takes place so that the right people are accused and charged. If you have been indicted, contacted by an investigator, or fear for your freedom in any way, shape, or form, you need to get in touch with a reliable criminal defense attorney. A lawyer will be at your side through every step of the proceedings. The facts will be evaluated so that you can get a good deal.

How to Fire an Employee For Embezzlement

Embezzlement is common at most workplaces and you should accept that your office is not exception and you must know how to handle this problem. Firing an employee from his or her job after noticing embezzlement is a difficult task.

While firing an employee for embezzlement makes sure that your judgments are accurate. Once you decide to fire an employee for embezzlement take some time for preparing and documenting the exact reason for his termination. Not having correct documentation could lead to lawsuits. Call the person into your office and speak calmly and plainly to him. Do not be defensive and aggressive. State the reason for termination succinctly and objectively, and do not let the employee draw you into an argument. Even if the employee unjustly argues, you may defend your decision with your eye witnesses and witness statement. If possible have someone else present when you fire the employee. After termination make a list and collect everything the employee has that belongs to your company. For example office keys, car, important document etc. Then ask some senior person to escort the employee to the exit. Never fire someone and then let them stay at your business afterward. If the employee becomes violent, consider contacting your lawyer immediately and also consider hiring a security guard to escort the person to the exit.

Most importantly check the local laws regarding dismissal or termination to make sure that you are complying with your state regulations. The employment laws are not same in all the states, if any dispute arises consult an attorney in your area.

Types of Theft

From a young age, most people are told that stealing is wrong and can come with very heavy consequences. We are repeatedly told that we cannot take something that does not belong to us unless we have very clear permission to do so. Thus, people tend to have a good understanding of what is meant by the term “theft,” both in its everyday use and when it is used in courts of law. There are special terms that are used to define theft under specific circumstances, though. While many of these terms are widely used and understood, the details that separate the different classifications can be less clear.

Shoplifting is possibly the most common type of theft charge seen by courts, and also the first type that comes to mind when a person thinks of goods being stolen. It is defined as the stealing of goods from a retail establishment, from a department store in a shopping mall to a small grocery or convenience store. The consequences of being found guilty of shoplifting will depend largely on the value of the good stolen.

Robbery is the term used to describe theft accomplished through the use of violence, threat of violence, or use of other intimidation tactics. Robbery can run the gamut from a quick mugging to a detailed, violent, large-scale bank robbery. The sentence accompanying a guilty verdict in a robbery case will likely be more severe than another theft case dealing with similar values of goods, as threats or assault are often present, as well.

Where robbery is theft through violence, fraud is generally considered theft through deception (though there are types of fraud that do not necessarily involve theft). Common forms of fraud include identity theft, forgery, and bait and switch schemes. When an instance of fraud is defined by a individual or group’s gain through the appropriation of money or other assets they have been trusted to protect, it is known as embezzlement.

Burglary is a blanket term applied to instances where theft is accompanied by trespassing. Home invasion break-ins, stealing goods from closed stores, or taking property out of a parked car are all forms of burglary.

In many states, these sorts of theft charges may be further broken down into the categories of “petty theft” or “grand theft,” depending on the value of goods or assets stolen. The dollar amount where the line is drawn depends on the state.

For more information about theft charges, visit the website of Appleton criminal defense attorneys Kohler, Hart, & Priebe, LLC.

White Collar Crimes 101

The majority of “white collar” crimes are committed by salaried professionals using deception, as opposed to violence or force, to perpetrate theft or fraud. These crimes can be either misdemeanor or felony infractions of the law, and these types of crimes can be prosecuted in state court, federal court, or both.

There are many types of these offenses and most involved theft by deception or fraud. Such crimes include offenses such as:

o Bank Fraud
o Bribery
o Credit Card Fraud
o Forgery
o Embezzlement
o Tax Evasion

Individuals convicted of committing a white collar crime can face punishments such as fines, restitution, forfeiture, or imprisonment. Additionally, individuals accused or convicted of a white collar crime may be subject to additional consequences such as loss of employment and loss of pension. Situations such as these can threaten the financial stability and future of both the accused and their family.

In many cases, individuals under investigation for these crimes are aware that they are under investigation. Suspected individuals may be the focus of internal investigations or private investigations. White collar crimes do not represent an immediate threat to society; therefore, white collar crimes are often investigated by federal authorities for a year or more before charges are filed against an individual suspected of committing these types of crimes. Individuals who believe they are under investigation for a white collar crime should contact an attorney for assistance.

If you are currently under investigation, have been contacted by law enforcement for questioning, or have received a subpoena for records or testimony, you should contact a lawyer immediately. Individuals should never agree to speak with law enforcement officials in regard to white collar crime investigations until they have discussed the matter with their attorney. You want to be sure that information provided to law enforcement officers cannot not be used against you in court. For that reason, it is imperative to consult an attorney as soon as you learn you are under investigation.