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Tampa Criminal Attorney > Blog > Criminal Defense > Proof Issues in Common White Collar Criminal Cases

Proof Issues in Common White Collar Criminal Cases


All criminal cases have proof issues. Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard of proof in Florida law. Because of this high burden of proof, witness availability and credibility are usually the two biggest proof issues. Many cases are single-witness cases. In most cases, police officers are available and credible. Prosecutors don’t have these advantages in white-collar crimes, making them especially difficult to prove.

Furthermore, investigators often examine white-collar crime cases before they ask prosecutors to file charges. Lengthy investigations often create procedural problems.

If a procedural or substantive defense applies, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer can often successfully resolve these charges out of court. That’s especially true in white-collar criminal cases. Usually, property owners or defrauded people just want their money back. They don’t want to see someone get into trouble.

Property Tax Aversion

Florida has no income tax. So, to make up the lost revenue, the Sunshine State has some of the highest property taxes in the country.

Many homeowners don’t pay property taxes directly. Instead, they pay via their mortgage companies. When they pay off the loans, they don’t understand the taxes must be paid. Similarly, many people stay in inherited homes “free.” They don’t realize that “free” means “almost free,” because they must still pay the property taxes.

In a civil action, nonpayment of taxes is rather straightforward. The owner either paid or didn’t pay. A criminal case is different. Prosecutors must prove the owner willfully didn’t pay property taxes. This intent is hard to prove, especially in the aforementioned situations.

Copyright Infringement

These cases involve two very strong, and almost opposite, principles. Copyrighted material is the exclusive property of the copyright holder, and there’s nothing new under the sun. At some level, all movies, TV shows, songs, and other copyrighted material is essentially the same.

Therefore, in court, prosecutors must establish substantial similarity. The recent Frozen copyright case is a good example.

A jury decided that Olaf was substantially similar to another small, whimsical snowman who had trouble holding onto his carrot nose. In contrast, Olaf and Frosty are similar (they’re both singing snowmen that entertain children), but these two characters aren’t substantially similar.

Mortgage Fraud

These cases often involve procedural issues, specifically Fifth Amendment violations. Frequently, investigators question a low-level conspirator until s/he gives them the name of someone higher on the food chain. This process continues until investigators identify Mr. Big.

If investigators don’t promptly and properly Mirandize suspects, any evidence they provide is inadmissible. Any evidence they find as a result of that illegal interrogation, like someone else’s name, is also inadmissible and cannot be used in court.


In many countries, guilt by association is insufficient. But, in the United States, prosecutors must prove agreements and overt acts.

An agreement is just that. Multiple people agree to do basically the same thing at basically the same time. A text message string, even one that ends with “OK,” usually isn’t an agreement. The overt act could be illegal or legal. Buying ski masks that will be used in a robbery is an overt act that furthers the conspiracy.


Many campaign contributions are, in a way, bribes. Many people make donations so they’ll have access to an elected official. So, unless prosecutors conclusively prove that the defendant gave a specific amount of money in exchange for a specific favor, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer might convince a judge to throw the case out of court.

 Work With a Diligent Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Pinellas County and nearby jurisdictions.



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