How Do I Defend Against a Money Laundering Charge?

Criminal charges are scary. Accusations of white-collar crimes can be particularly frightening. A person could go from making financial transactions one day to being arrested the next. If you are facing money laundering allegations, read further for some quality defenses your lawyer can prepare on your behalf.

What Is Money Laundering?

In popular culture, money laundering is often tied to the world of drug dealers. While this does happen, it can also be connected to any illegal activity involving large sums of money. Fraud and embezzlement, for example, may require an offender to launder money.

In essence, money laundering is a way of making illegally obtained money appear legal. The offender is “cleaning,” or “laundering” the money. There are many ways to do this. Sometimes, money is funneled through a complicated system of bank transfers, making it difficult to trace. By the time it is withdrawn and used, its trail is so complex that it simply appears to belong to its owner.

Sometimes, the ill-gotten gains are funneled through a legitimate business. Someone buys a business and moves the money through it, making the money appear to be the business’s profits. When this happens, the money is even taxed by the government, causing it to seem all the more legal.

Penalties for Money Laundering

In Texas, the penalties for laundering are dependent upon the amount being laundered.

  • Laundering $1,500 to $20,000 = 180 days to 2 years in jail; fines up to $10,000.
  • Laundering $20,000 to $100,000 = third-degree felony; 2 to 10 years in prison; fines up to $10,000.
  • Laundering $100,000 to $200,000 = second-degree felony; 2 to 20 years in prison; fines up to $10,000.
  • Laundering more than $200,000 = first-degree felony; 5 years to life in prison; fines up to $10,000.

Clearly, the punishment for money laundering is steep, but it can be even worse. Since money laundering is connected to money obtained through illegal activity, authorities can throw separate charges at the alleged launderer. For example, a banker who helps funnel a drug dealer’s money into a business can be charged with drug-related crimes themselves. They may have no connection to the creation, possession, or distribution of the drugs, but they could be included as accessories.

Defenses Against Money Laundering

It is always necessary to remember that in the U.S. you are considered innocent until proven guilty. You have a right to be heard in court. With charges like money laundering, the lines of responsibility are often vague. There are many ways you can show the court your innocence in this complicated accusation.

Lack of Intent

In our criminal justice system, intent is a large part of any criminal accusation. Committing a crime by accident or by technicality should not be grounds for conviction. It is entirely possible that you were committing laundering without realizing it. Someone may have been using you, and you thought you were just doing your job. When you can show the court that yes, you moved the money, but you had no idea it came from an illegal source, you may be able to maintain your innocence.


When you are forced to do something illegal, you committed that crime under “duress.” This is an easy situation to imagine if the money came from a dangerous drug dealer. You could have feasibly been threatened into laundering their money. This was not a mutually beneficial criminal enterprise; this was a situation where you feared for your life or the life of your family.

The Money Was Not Concealed

Concealment is a key element in a money laundering charge. This means that you intentionally hid the fact that the money came from an illegal source. Goods and services purchased with dirty money are not the same as concealed money. For example, it is possible that you helped someone buy a legitimate business with fraud money. From there, the business operated on its own, and the owner made a genuine profit. That is not money laundering. Laundering involves cooking the books, making the dirty money seem as though it came from a business. Just because you were involved in the initial transaction does not mean there is hard evidence that you were part of a money laundering scheme.

Challenge the Origin of the Money

For a money laundering charge to stick, the authorities must have connected the money to a specific illegal activity. Simply suspecting the money’s owner isn’t enough to prove money laundering. Even if they have convicted someone of embezzlement, the police cannot be certain that the money you handled was connected to that crime. Money laundering is a complicated crime to commit, but it is also a complicated crime to charge. If the authorities do not have a detailed paper trail, you can challenge the evidence they present.

The Zendeh Del Law Firm, PLLC can help if you’ve been accused of money laundering. We have years of experience defending Texans against criminal charges. Set up a consultation with us online, or call 888-4-ZEN-LAW.

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