As of January 2019, according to data available from the Department of Justice, the kinds of cases that are most prosecuted are immigration crimes (at seventy-one percent), and drugs or drug-trafficking (at seven percent).
All other crimes make up the remainder. In spite of this, drug crimes and immigration have defendants who rarely obtain private legal counsel. In fact, more than eighty percent of individuals charged with felonies are indigent, meaning they cannot afford a private attorney and instead have to rely on the public defense system.
Those that can afford a private attorney will usually fall into the next most prosecuted category of crimes – fraud. In 2016, fraud represented nearly ten percent of the U.S. federal caseload. Fraud crimes include things like embezzlement, property destruction, or any other offenses which involve fraud or deceit. The federal government considers identity theft, mail fraud and tax fraud under this umbrella.
White collar crimes constituted three percent of the most frequently prosecuted acts. These include corporate fraud, such as false accounting, insider trading, or falsifying assets. Notably, organizations can also be prosecuted for violating criminal law, although the frequency with which this occurs is low (and dropping).
It is not surprising that individuals and organizations charged with fraud have the means to acquire private representation. Organizations would usually be a corporation, meaning they probably have a legal budget to hire attorneys when necessary.
This is particularly true if they have been accused of white collar crimes. Financial firms run the risk of being exposed to these accusations, and would likely keep a federal criminal defense lawyer on retainer in the event they are ever investigated.
On the other hand, individuals charged with fraud or white collar crimes frequently commit these acts as part of their profession – whether it be business owners, doctors, lawyers or accountants – they usually already have a financial framework in place that gives them access to sufficient funds to carry out a fraudulent act.
For example, the losses reported by fraud cases range from no loss to over $8 billion (in just one case), with an average loss amount to over $6 million, and a median loss amount of $246,553.00. While these funds may be ill-gotten, in most cases, any funds stolen represent a portion of what that individual would earn in a year.
The most consistently prosecuted white collar crime is fraud by wire, radio or television. That is because anyone committing a white-collar crime would necessarily receive funds and need to transfer it from one account to the next – meaning they would be in violation of Title 18 USC Section 1343.
Following closely for the same reason is mail fraud (including attempted mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud) and bank fraud. Identity theft is growing in frequency. Ten years, it was the fifteenth most frequently prosecuted white collar crime, while it is currently the fifth.
The Southern District of New York has the highest level of white-collar prosecutions. This should come as no surprise, given that it has one of the highest concentrations of both people and businesses in the world.
Wall Street firms, major banks, and other financial institutions all have offices in Manhattan. Organizations and wealthy individuals in Manhattan under threat of criminal prosecution would certainly hire a private federal defense lawyer.