Is Deterrence Relevant in Sentencing White-Collar Defendants?

34 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2015

See all articles by Peter J. Henning

Peter J. Henning

Wayne State University Law School

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

This article is part of the Wayne Law Review symposium “Sentencing White-Collar Defendants: How Much Is Enough?” held in October, 2014. The article looks at the primary justification for imposing punishment on a defendant convicted of a crime, which is deterrence of both the individual who committed the offense (special deterrence) and others similarly situated who will be dissuaded from pursuing similar misconduct (general deterrence). White-collar crimes are different from traditional street crimes, both in the type of conduct involved and the nature of the perpetrators. One would expect that well-educated individuals, the type of person who commits a white-collar crime, would be easily deterred from violations because of the penalties suffered by others and knowledge of the consequences that is communicated through sentences imposed on others in the same industry or profession. This article considers whether that message is heard because most white-collar offenses occur in seemingly unique circumstances, at least from the defendant’s point of view, and the person rarely expects to be caught, or may even believe that the conduct is not a crime. The real value of deterrence is in keeping judges from succumbing to the impulse to view white-collar defendants as offenders who, having many good qualities, should not suffer any significant punishment. Deterrence does not so much stop future crimes but acts as a means to inform judges about the need to impose punishments that do not let white-collar defendants use their social status and other resources to avoid the consequences of violations.

Keywords: Sentencing; Criminal Law; White Collar Crime; Punishment; Deterrence

Suggested Citation

Henning, Peter J., Is Deterrence Relevant in Sentencing White-Collar Defendants? (2015). 61 Wayne Law Review 27 (2015); Wayne State University Law School Research Paper No. 2015-04. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2666616

Peter J. Henning (Contact Author)

Wayne State University Law School ( email )

471 West Palmer Ave.
Detroit, MI 48202
United States

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