Being charged with a crime is not, to say the least, a pleasant experience for anyone. Some liberties and freedoms, which we, as Americans, have fought for, are suspended, at least temporarily and potentially more long-term, while the legal process works out whether the defendant is guilty. Retaining the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney can help make the legal process go as smooth as possible. However, other aspects of an individual’s life are also affected as a result of being charged with a crime. Specifically, individuals who have been charged with money laundering may find that they may not be permitted to purchase a house in an all-cash transaction. Recent federal law now requires that real property cash purchasers prove their identity, and those with previous allegations of money laundering may now be more highly-scrutinized when attempting to purchase a house via an all-cash offer. A discussion of California’s money laundering law, its punishments, and possible defenses, will follow below.
California’s Money Laundering Statute
In essence, money laundering is the act of concealing the transformation of profits from illegal activity into legitimate assets. An issue associated with engaging in certain criminal activities is what to do with the financial proceeds of, or money resulting from, the criminal activity, so that it does not arouse suspicion. Consequently, some look to launder, or clean, the money. Once this occurs, the money may be used in the mainstream economy. Law enforcement takes steps to detect the laundering of money before it has concluded, and in California, money laundering consists of the following elements:
- The completion of a transaction, or a series of transactions, through a financial institution;
- In which the total amount of the transaction is more than $5,000 in a seven-day period or more than $25,000 in a 30 day period; and
- The transaction was made with the intent to promote criminal activity, or the defendant knew that the money was from the proceeds of criminal activity.
In California, money laundering is a wobbler crime. This means that the prosecutor may choose to charge a defendant with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the defendant’s previous criminal history, as well as the facts of the case. If the prosecutor chooses to charge the defendant with a misdemeanor, the penalties can include up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If the prosecutor desires to charge the defendant with a felony, the penalties can include between 16 months and up to four years in jail, and/or a fine of up to the greater amount of either $250,000 or twice the amount of the money laundered (or $500,000 or five times, if the defendant has had a prior conviction for money laundering). Further, California law provides for increased jail sentences correlated with the amount of the transaction. Thus, the more the money laundered, the greater the potential jail sentence.
The primary defense to a money laundering charge is that the defendant did not know the money came from criminal activity. This is sometimes referred to as a mistake of fact defense, and can be used by banks and other financial institutions who provide banking services and are not part of a money laundering scheme to avoid prosecution. Another potential defense is that the defendant lacked the intent to launder money.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with money laundering, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC as soon as possible. The attorneys at our office have an extensive knowledge of criminal defense, including white collar crimes like money laundering. As alluded to above, charges of money laundering can have negative effects on other aspects of your life, so it is important to aggressively defend against these charges, and the attorneys at the Manshoory Law Group will do just that, helping you to get your life back on track. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for an initial consultation.