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Is mental illness a mitigating factor in white collar cases?

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2024 | White Collar Crimes |

White collar cases involving financial fraud, embezzlement and corporate misconduct are severely regarded by the courts these days – and punishments can be exceptionally harsh.

At the same time, there is a growing understanding that mental illness can play a significant role in white collar crimes. Mental illness can be a big mitigating factor when it comes to minimizing the consequences of a conviction.

What are some examples of how mental illness can affect behavior?

All kinds of mental health issues can affect someone’s decision-making abilities, judgment and moral reasoning. For example:

  • Bi-polar disorder: A lot of people with bipolar disorder will experience manic episodes that are characterized by impulsivity and risk-taking behavior. This can lead to the kind of financial actions that can easily end up at the heart of a money laundering case.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD): “Money hoarding” is a very real symptom of OCPD, and the obsessive need to stockpile funds can drive someone to do things they shouldn’t, including hiding diverting and hiding assets through tax fraud or engaging in insider trading.
  • Anxiety and depression: Anxiety over their family’s financial situation and depression related to any number of problems can lead people to embezzle or act in other unethical ways. 

When a defendant who has led an exemplary life suddenly acts outside their normal character and ends up charged with a white collar offense, it is always worth exploring whether their mental health may have factored into the situation. Obtaining a diagnosis and treatment before sentencing can often work to their benefit.