WHAT IS MONEY LAUNDERING
The legal definition of money laundering can be found in Penal Code 186.10. It states that conducting or attempting to conduct a transaction through a bank and this transaction or series of transactions total over $5,000 in a seven-day period or over $25,000 in a thirty-day period. There must also be a specific intent to promote criminal activity or knowledge that the money in this transaction came from criminal activity. Health and Safety Code 11370.9 covers the crime of money laundering in relation to drug crimes. The legal definition of narcotics money laundering is that the person involved received, acquired, or engaged in a transaction that involved money or property that they knew came from a drug offense. The person must have done this because they intended to hide or cover up the source of the money and the amount of money must be over $25,000 in a thirty-day period.
Both the forms of money laundering described above are considered wobblers in California meaning that they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies depending on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. If either form of money laundering is charged as a misdemeanor the possible penalties can include up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Under Penal Code 186.10, when money laundering is charged as a felony is a sentence of 16 months to 2 years in county jail and/or a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of money that was laundered—whichever is greater. The maximum fine increases if it is not the first conviction for money laundering and the maximum prison sentence increases if the amount of money laundered is more than $50,000. Felony penalties for Health and Safety Code 11370.9 for narcotics money laundering are 2 to 4 years in state prison or a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of money that was laundered—whichever is greater.
POSSIBLE LEGAL DEFENSES
A defense attorney can argue that there was a lack of intent or knowledge in relation to the crime. For both of the crimes discussed above there needs to be an intent or knowledge of the crime being committed, if the prosecutor cannot prove that you had intent or knowledge, then you cannot be found guilty. An attorney could also argue that you did not get enough money from those illegal activities, which would mean that you couldn’t get convicted for money laundering crimes. Finally, an attorney could argue police misconduct because oftentimes police use undercover operations to make arrests relating to money laundering charges and these operations sometimes involve police misconduct. If there was police misconduct in your case, your attorney could argue for a motion of suppress evidence that was gained from this misconduct.
FEDERAL MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES
Federal law makes it a crime to knowingly engage in a financial transaction where illegal activities are promoted or in order to hide the illegal source of the money. If you are convicted of a money laundering charge on the federal level, you may be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison and may even be fined up to $500,000 or twice the amount of money that was laundered—whichever is greater. The other type of federal money laundering charge is where you would attempt or engage in a transaction that uses money obtained from illegal activities in an amount greater than $10,000. This crime, which is just a little less serious than the first, can result in a prison term of up to 10 years.
READY TO FIGHT FOR YOU
If you or a loved one is facing a money laundering charge, you need an aggressive Orange County criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa, we serve people throughout Southern California, including in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.