White collar crimes are often nonviolent and involve abusing some level of trust or responsibility for financial gain. Common examples include securities fraud, mortgage fraud and embezzlement.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal notes that these crimes can serve as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) "bread and butter." To make matters worse for those accused of these crimes, the DOJ and SEC had a very successful year in 2013 prosecuting those accused of these crimes. As a result, legal experts anticipate the currently high level of prosecutions for white collar crimes will remain throughout 2014.

More on white collar crimes and predictions for 2014

Insider trading may be the most notably pursued crime. Insider trading is a specific type of securities fraud that occurs when an individual who is privy to private information makes investment decisions based on that information. Additionally, an insider trading violation also requires that some duty be breached. For example, a former board member with Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble Co. was recently convicted of insider trading for leaking information from private board meetings to a hedge fund owner. The information leaked was intended to guide investment decisions for the company. It was not intended for public knowledge. As a result, the court found the board member guilty of committing insider trading.

The Journal also predicted an increase in the number of accounting fraud cases brought to court. The most notable example of accounting fraud was experienced by Enron. Essentially, accounting fraud occurs when accounting records are intentionally misrepresented or altered for financial gain.

It is also likely that embezzlement prosecution will continue. This type of crime occurs when an employee or other individual that has access to another's money or property misuses those assets for his or her own personal gain.

White collar crimes: harsh penalties, serious time

Conviction of a white collar crime can come with steep penalties. The former board member for Goldman Sachs referred to above was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Keep in mind, this was for simply providing some information to a friend - no one was physically injured.

The SEC notes that in addition to criminal penalties, civil penalties can also apply. Criminal penalties can include up to 20 years imprisonment and a monetary fine of up to $5,000,000.00 for an individual and $25,000,000.00 for a business or corporation. Civil penalties can vary depending on the details of the alleged crime.

Because of these harsh penalties, anyone charged with a white collar crime should contact an experienced white collar crime defense attorney. This legal professional will be able to review your case and explore various defenses that could lead to reduction of the charges.