Four Defenses To White-Collar Crimes In NYC

Typically, white-collar crimes in NYC are prosecuted at the federal level. This means the charges for embezzlement, forgery, money laundering or insider trading are brought against a defendant in federal court and subject to federal law. However, this doesn’t change the basic requirements for the prosecution to win a conviction.

A federal prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a bad act, had the requisite intent to commit such bad act, and the bad act caused the victim’s harm. What equals a bad act? That is specific to each criminal offense. All federal and state crimes, including white-collar crimes in NYC, have specific legal elements that must likewise be proven through evidence.

There are several valid and effective defenses to white-collar crimes in NYC. Rather than arguing actual innocence or that the bad act didn’t occur, the most common and more successful defenses are that the defendant didn’t have the intent to commit the offense. Just as actual innocence amounts to an acquittal, if the jury agrees there wasn’t the requisite intent to commit the crime, the verdict is not guilty.

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#1: Duress

The defense of duress argues that the defendant didn’t have a choice but to commit the alleged crime. In other words, the defendant was forced to embezzle or steal someone’s identity because of violence or the threat of violence. In either set of circumstances, the defendant didn’t intend or desire to commit a crime, but lacked the free will to decide otherwise. Duress is a difficult defense to prove because four separate elements are involved.

federal defense attorney must prove: there was actual or threat of violence; such violence was immediate and possible; the defendant was actually and reasonably afraid of such violence; and the defendant had no means to escape or prevent the violence from occurring. Without evidence of all four elements, duress is an imperfect defense to white-collar crimes in NYC.

#2: Entrapment

The most common defense to white-collar crimes in NYC is entrapment. For the defense of entrapment, a defense attorney argues that interactions with a police officer or other government agent before or during the crime caused the defendant to commit the specific offense. These interactions can include coercion, threat, fraud or overbearing opportunity to commit a white-collar crime in NYC. Due to such coercion or other impressionable actions by the government agent, the defendant engaged in embezzlement, identity theft, cybercrime or bribery.

There is a difference between entrapment and providing opportunity. The law expects that a normally law-abiding individual will resist the mere opportunity to commit a crime. Therefore, if a government agent simply provides the opportunity to commit a crime without further interaction with the defendant, entrapment fails as a defense. The defendant must have evidence that the government action induced him or her to commit the offense.

#3: Incapacity & Intoxication

Incapacity and intoxication are separate defenses, but they make the same argument – that the defendant was unable and did not understand his or her actions because of a mental deficiency. To be valid defenses, the mental incapacity or intoxication must have made it impossible for the defendant to comprehend the nature of his or her actions and the consequences of these actions. Due to this lack of comprehension, the defendant didn’t know what he or she was doing, and lacked the necessary intent to commit a white-collar crime in NYC.

Federal courts only accept the defense of intoxication in very narrow circumstances, and when an individual becomes voluntarily drunk, the defense is even less successful.

#4: Insanity

 Similar to incapacity and intoxication, the defense of insanity focuses the defendant’s mental deficiency. The defense doesn’t argue that the acts occurred, just that the defendant didn’t know or understand the nature of his or her actions. Once again, this mental deficiency means the defendant can’t form the necessary intent to commit a white-collar crime. Timing is particularly pertinent to the defense of insanity. The defense must show that the defendant was insane at the time of the bad acts.

Building The Best Defense

There is far more to building a successful defense to white-collar crimes in NYC than simply knowing the possible defenses. A criminal defense must be strategic, accurate, backed by evidence, and comprehensive. This defense begins by taking the correct, first steps when charges for a white-collar crime are alleged. Often, to address the particulars of a specific crime, a defendant needs the legal assistance of a federal defense attorney.

When it comes to white-collar crimes in NYC, no firm has a stronger reputation for success than Greco Neyland. To learn more about our past cases and success in federal court, visit our website at

The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only. This Post may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this Post should be construed as legal advice from Greco Neyland Attorneys at Law or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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About The Author

Jeffery Greco

Jeffery Greco is an attorney providing legal services covering Criminal Defense and Criminal Defense: White Collar and Criminal Defense: DUI / DWI. Jeffery Greco, who practices law in New York, New York, was selected to Super Lawyers for 2020 - 2023. This peer designation is awarded only to a select number of accomplished attorneys in each state. The Super Lawyers selection process takes into account peer recognition, professional achievement in legal practice, and other cogent factors. Prior to becoming an attorney, he studied at South Texas College of Law Houston. He graduated in 2004. After passing the bar exam, he was admitted to legal practice in 2005.

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