Money Laundering Defense Attorney

Money laundering charges, whether they come from state or federal law enforcement, can impact your life for years to come. More than $1.6 trillion (or approximately 2.7 percent of global GDP) was laundered in 2009, according to a study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Of all profit from criminal activity worldwide, less than 1 percent is seized and frozen every year, according to another UNODC report. However, for the small percentage who are caught and prosecuted for money laundering, the consequences can be life-changing.

Don’t let these charges define you. If you are facing money laundering charges in Southern California, The Law Office of Peter Blair can help. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.

Legal Definitions

Money laundering is the broad term for taking “dirty money” (i.e. money gained through criminal activity) and putting into legitimate use. Under California law, money laundering requires putting the illegally obtained money into a bank; once it is in a bank, it qualifies as money laundering if you use the funds to make a deposit, withdraw money, write a check, exchange the money into foreign currency, or initiate a wire transfer or electronic transfer.

California Penal Code 186.10 covers money laundering in California, but money laundering in relation to drug trafficking can also be prosecuted under Health and Safety Code 11370.9. These laws were originally designed so police could target the “higher-ups” in a crime organization, or those who were profiting from the illegal activity without engaging in it themselves. Therefore, it became a crime to not only engage in the illegal activity (e.g. transporting large amounts of cocaine), but also to funnel the profits through a bank (e.g. by putting the money into an account and withdrawing from it periodically).

However, you don’t have to be part of a criminal enterprise to face money laundering charges. So long as you were aware that the money came from illicit activity and you knowingly put it into a bank, you could be prosecuted for money laundering.

Penalties, Punishment & Sentencing

Money laundering is a wobbler under California Penal Code 186.10, meaning it can be handled as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. Misdemeanor money laundering is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Felony money laundering is punishable by 16 months, two years, or three years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of money laundered (whichever is more).

Depending on the amount of money laundered, the maximum prison sentence can increase. If the amount of money laundered exceeds $250,000, an extra year is added to the maximum sentence; if the amount exceeds $2.5 million, four years are added to the maximum sentence.

Money laundering for drug transactions is also a wobbler under Health and Safety Code 11370.9. Misdemeanor money laundering for drug offenses is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Felony money laundering for drug offenses is punishable by two, three, or four years in state prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of money laundered (whichever is more).

Legal Defenses

There are several legal defenses available for those facing money laundering charges:

  • No bank involvement:In order to prove money laundering under California law, a prosecutor must prove that you used a financial institution to house the money. If you did not put the “dirty” money into a bank account, money laundering charges cannot apply. (However, you can still face charges for the underlying criminal activity, of course.) For example, say John has $50,000 in cash from drug trafficking, which he uses to buy a new car. This does not qualify as money laundering because the transaction did not involve a bank.
  • Police misconduct: Money laundering is often uncovered through complicated undercover operations, which can produce instances of police misconduct. Illegal search and seizure, coercion, false arrests, and tampering with evidence are all examples of police misconduct that can lead to the dismissal of certain evidence or dismissal of charges altogether.

Legal defenses and strategies will vary based on the specific circumstances of your case. Contacting an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney is the only way to determine the best defense for your particular case.

Contact The Law Offices of Peter Blair

You are more than the charges against you. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Peter Blair can listen to the circumstances of your case, determine the best plan of action for your defense, and help you navigate the complicated criminal justice system.

When it comes to serious criminal charges like money laundering, it is in your best interest to be proactive. The sooner you contact an attorney and start working on your defense, the better your chance of minimizing jail time or avoiding a conviction altogether. Mr. Blair can develop a sound defense strategy that gives you the best chance at a favorable outcome, and he will fight relentlessly for you and your freedom.

Don’t let these charges define you. If you are facing money laundering charges in Southern California, contact The Law Office of Peter Blair. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.