5 Common Federal Crimes Defendants Accidentally Commit

examples of federal crimes people commit without knowing

Most people think of federal criminals as people who want to commit crimes and go out of their way to do so. However, sometimes people commit white collar federal crimes without even knowing that they are committing an offence. Here are five of the most common crimes people can commit, without malice, due to oversight, misinformation or neglect.

1. Insider Trading

Insider trading is probably one of the best known white collar federal crimes committed in the United States. It involves trading stock of a public company using secret or otherwise confidential information about the company that is not accessible to the public. Although there are federal criminal cases where defendants intentionally commit this crime, some cases lack premeditation or foresight. For example, if you sell your stock in a client’s company because you know the company isn’t doing well — even if you don’t tell anyone else — it can be considered insider trading. Or if you tell friends or family members about your work with this client in a way that prompts them to sell their stock in your client’s company, you might be held responsible for this accidental insider trading.

2. Bribery

Bribery is when something is given to someone to influence the actions of someone. It’s fairly obvious that you shouldn’t bribe an elected official or judge to influence their decisions. However, it may be considered bribery if you offer an employee who tenders his or her resignation a week’s vacation at your vacation home if they only stay a few more weeks to give you time to find a replacement.

3. Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement is where you use copyrighted works without first getting permission from the person or company who owns the copyright. In a digital world with sometimes complicated copyright rules, it is easier than ever to unintentionally commit copyright infringement. Maybe you copy and paste some notes into your book with the intention of only using it as a reference, or you find a photo that you think is free to use under a Creative Commons license. These are considered copyright infringement.

4. Forgery

Forgery is when you artificially produce a copy of a document or the signature of someone else. If you’ve ever signed your boss’s name for a package delivery or a check he or she asked you to mail, you’ve committed an act of forgery by signing a name other than your own. It’s a lot easier to do than most people think because there are instances where forgery comes up in everyday life without any consequences. As a rule, you should only sign documents under your own name. It isn’t worth the risk.

5. Fraud

Fraud happens when you try to deceive others, for financial or personal gain. And you don’t need to run a Ponzi scheme in order to commit fraud. Most of us have committed fraud when we took credit, even partially, for someone else’s work. Maybe you worked on a project and, when your boss asked who’s idea it was, you took credit. Small business owners and bookkeepers are particularly vulnerable to committing unintentional fraud. For example, you need to buy a new fridge for the employee break room after it unexpectedly stops working. You bring your fairly new fridge from home to the office, and then write off the nice new fridge you brought to your house. You’ve just committed fraud. Or perhaps you’re driving with a broken taillight, and you get rear-ended. You have your auto-insurance cover the fender-bender repair bill that also included the broken taillight. This is fraud, and you could find yourself in need of an insurance fraud lawyer if someone looks into this.

Very few people start with the intention of committing a federal crime. If you find yourself facing criminal charges, you need a legal Houston criminal defense attorney on your side that can see you for who you are and fight for your rights. Contact us today so we can help you overcome your legal challenges.

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