The term white-collar crime was first popularized by Edwin H. Sutherland in 1939. Until the publication in 1949 of his pioneering study. White Collar Crime, 1 virtually all criminological literature dealt with ordinary crimes—crimes most prevalent among persons in the lower socioeconomic classes. Donald R. Cressey , in his introduction to the 1961 edition of White Collar Crime, observed that "the lasting merit of this book * * * is its demonstration that a pattern of crime can be found to exist outside both the focus of popular preoccupation with crime and the focus of scientific investigation of crime and criminality." 2
Sutherland defined white-collar crime as "crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation." 3 But the term white-collar crime has generally come to include crimes such as tax fraud, which are not necessarily committed either in connection with an occupation or by persons of "high" social status, but are as a general matter committed by the relatively well-to-do.This definition excludes so-called street crimes, such as burglary, robbery or aggravated assault, which are occasionally, but not generally, committed by persons of means.
As applied to regulatory offenses, the scope of white-collar criminality has expanded in recent years. Until the late 19th century, the economic life of this country was largely unregulated, but over the years it became clear that business enterprise had to be regulated in order to protect both the public and business itself—to maintain standards of health and safety, to assist the poor and ignorant, to obtain decent housing and other necessities, and to maintain the economy at a high level of production. Today virtually every aspect of business life is regulated in some way. There are antitrust laws, food and drug laws, safety and health laws, licensing systems for different kinds of____________________