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White collar crime search warrants

Many in Rhode Island associate the word "crime" with violence, but financial crimes carry their own consequences and may affect many people who are strangers. According to The Atlantic, the term "white collar crime" was coined in 1939 by a criminologist who believed illegal acts committed by professionals deserved special attention. Typically having to do with money, white collar crime often refers to embezzlement, wire or bank fraud, tax evasion or insider trading, among other charges. 

Although white collar crimes are often of interest to the public, the prosecution of these crimes has decreased dramatically in recent years. Experts say that in 1995 there were almost 11,000 white collar criminal cases, in 2016 that number was only around 6,000 cases. One challenge in prosecuting the crimes, as the New York Times reports, is that finding evidence can be difficult because often times law enforcement officers are not entirely sure what to look for.

In fact, search warrants in financial cases can be challenged in court for being overly broad. The Fourth Amendment protects "against unreasonable searches and seizures," and some courts have found in favor of the defendant because search warrants need to state with some specificity what is being searched. In some criminal cases this is not too difficult to identify: a car theft might look for the stolen car, for example. In white collar cases, there can be evidence surpressed because the search warrant was not clear enough which computers or documents were being seized. Since white collar crimes are not typically immediately apparent, prosecutors can struggle to "particularly" identify the items being searched, and that recently has led to evidence being supressed by a judge.

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