Not many crimes catch the public’s interest the way that money laundering does. The simple mention of this crime summons thoughts of mob bosses passing their illegally gained money through a restaurant or dry cleaning front to ensure that the source of their ill-gotten gains is never discovered.
Unfortunately, many people in California have discovered that the legal definition in the state is far broader than most would believe. A person could commit the crime of money laundering without even knowing it. Understanding the law is the best way for people to protect themselves from prosecution for this offense.
What Activities Are Considered Money Laundering?
In California this law is very broad and complex. If a person conducts, or even attempts to conduct, one or more transactions that exceed $5,000 dollars at a financial institution within a week’s period they are quickly flagged. If they are also contributing to any type of criminal activity, then they are guilty of money laundering.
They are also guilty of money laundering if they conduct these transactions knowing that the money in some way came from criminal activity, even if they do not participate in that activity themselves. This makes it very easy for a person to be charged with money laundering; a person merely depositing money into a bank that was given to them by a drug dealer or other criminal would be guilty of the crime.
The definition of financial institution is also incredibly broad and can include any institution from a national bank to a pawnbroker. Many people wonder why these laws are so broad, and it turns out it is basically California’s way of convicting major crime bosses. A person at the top of a criminal empire does not usually have a direct hand in the criminal activity going on below him, but often benefits from the proceeds of his crimes. Because of this, California found a way to charge these major criminals, even when they have not physically committed any infraction.
Penalties You May Be Facing
The base penalty for money laundering is a jail term not exceeding one year and/or a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the value of the money laundered. This is not, however the only punishment a person usually receives. Each transaction of $5,000 in a week or $25,000 in a month is treated as a separate offense and can be penalized as such. Penalties continue to increase as certain thresholds of money are reached as well. If the illegal transactions exceed $150,000, then an additional year will be added to the overall sentence. This continues all of the way up to 2.5 million dollars, which will garner a person an additional four years – and also, each five thousand dollar transaction can be charged and sentenced separately.
How Much Can You Expect the Bail To Be?
The preset bail schedule amounts for money laundering vary between all California counties. In Monterey, San Benito and Santa Barbara counties, for instance, the bail amount for money laundering is $10,000. In Santa Barbara though, this bail amount can increase to $40,000 dollars, dependent on the amount of money involved in the crime. These bail amounts may seem very steep, but they are worth it to have additional time to confer with a lawyer. Unfortunately, California PC 1275 states that illegally gained money cannot be used for bail. This usually means that a person accused of money laundering will have to prove their bail money did not come from illegal activities, and Bail Hotline can walk you through these steps.
Money laundering is no longer a crime that affects only major crime bosses. Almost anyone could become involved with money laundering without realizing they are being so used. A lack of knowledge of the law is never an excuse to break it, so many people walk in front of a judge completely unprepared with how they will handle the situation. If charged with this crime, there are serious and complicated aspects to be dealt with. Calling Bail Hotline as soon as you are booked, can get the ball rolling toward a more rapid release.