According to a recently released study from Syracuse University, the number of white collar cases being prosecuted by federal authorities has been on a decline. The report indicates that the current number of prosecutions is about 25% less than the number seen just five years earlier. In fact, white collar prosecutions are now at a 30-year low.

To give you an idea what that looks like in numbers, about 5,175 white collar cases will probably be prosecuted this year (based on projections). Compare that to the 7,843 that were prosecuted in 1986, for example, to see the difference.

But what does that mean for potential defendants? Is the government “going soft” on white collar criminals? Not likely. Instead, it’s probably a reflection of the times — which means that things could change rapidly again. White collar prosecutions tend to go up when the economy is struggling with financial crises (like after the Madoff scandal). A sudden shift in the country’s economic conditions (which is widely predicted for the future) can lay bare schemes that a booming economy might otherwise hide.

It’s also wise to note that the United States Department of Justice differs with the study’s assessment, saying that their internal statistics paint a slightly different picture. Plus, they’re quick to point out, they’ve increased their conviction rate by 40% at trial. That indicates that they may be focused on bringing better cases to trial with clearer evidence.

Don’t assume that stories about the decline of white collar prosecutions mean that the federal government is willing to overlook irregularities or potential cases. If you find yourself the object of suspicion by authorities, you cannot expect the issue to “blow over.” Get experienced legal assistance today.