Money laundering in Texas
Have you been accused of money laundering in Texas? In this article you will understand what these charges are all about and what you can do.
Money laundering is generally, a white-collar offense that involves “cleaning” money from criminal activities and making it seem legit. The crime is usually committed by either, possessing, spending, transferring or investing cash that an individual knows it originated from cranial activities.
Money laundering charges are very serious and have the potential to ruin both your personal and professional life. This is mainly because they can result in very severe financial penalties and/or serving a long time in prison.
There are several ways that can be used to conceal the source of illegal money but by now you probably know how easy it is to be caught in any money laundering scheme. This is because laws that involve money laundering are updated regularly to keep up with different ways criminal use to make their illegal funds appear legitimate. Texas is the worst place to be facing money laundering charges due to its severe punishment system.
If you are caught up in such charges, the best thing to do is to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has in-depth knowledge regarding the complexities of money laundering charges.
According to chapter 34 of the Texas penal code money laundering is when an individual conceals the origin, destination or the transfer of illegal funds. In the US, money laundering is punishable under both federal and state laws.
Money Laundering Charges in Texas
Money laundering charges you face in Texas will depend on the amount involved. The charges are prosecuted in accordance with Texas penal code chapter 34. According to the penal code, an individual commits an offense if they “knowingly”:
- Acquires or keeps an interest in possessing, transferring and concealing the proceeds from criminal activity.
- Carries out, supervises, or enables a transaction involving the proceeds of illegal activity;
- Invests or offers to invest, receives or spends funds from illegal activities
- Finances or intends to invest income that a person believes will facilitate criminal activities
What Is Meant by “Knowingly”
The prosecution should be able to prove that the defendant knowingly took part in money laundering activities, for the charges to hold ground. The requirement is stipulated as one of the provisions of the statute. The knowledge of money laundering means that the defendant knew about the specific circumstances regarding the illegal nature of the funds obtained.
Meaning of “Criminal Activity”
Under the Texas law, federal law or the law of any other US state, the term “criminal activity” represents a felony. Criminal activity is used to mean a crime or the act of attempting to commit a crime which is considered a felony according to the judicial system of Texas. A felony could result in sentencing of at least one year in Jail.
The minimum one-year requirement is because different states have varied laws when it comes to misdemeanors and felonies. Therefore, the cut off for a felony charge in Texas is one year. Charges with a range of punishment for more than one year are categorized under state jail felony. It is important to note that the term criminal activity is used to describe preparatory offenses which include criminal conspiracy and criminal attempt.
What Is Concealment?
Money laundering involves an individual attempting to conceal illegally acquired funds, though it doesn’t have to include spending the mentioned funds. The defendant would have attempted to disguise the origin of the money for the charges to be brought upon him or her. The prosecution must prove that the defendant concealed the location, source, control or ownership of the illegally obtained funds.
In Texas, the charges for money laundering do not require that the defendant know the specifics of the criminal activity that is the source of the proceeds. The fact that they are where the funds are illegal or they are as a result of criminal activities is sufficient to warrant conviction of the defendant.
If you or someone you care about is facing money laundering charges, then you might be looking at a felony. This means that the case will have to first go through the indictment process and if you get indicted, then the case will get funneled to a District Court. The lowest charge that you might face for money laundering in Texas, is a state jail felony while the highest is a first-degree felony with hefty fines. The penalties associated with money laundering charges increase based on the amount of money involved.
Penalties for Money Laundering
Possible penalties the defendant can face are classified into:
State Jail Felony
An alleged offender can be found guilty for state jail felony if the value of the money involved is more than $ 2,500 but less than $30,000. Charges of this kind can attract a jail term of 180 days up to 2 years and a hefty fine to a tune of $10,000.
Third Degree Felony
A defendant is usually charged with a third-degree felony if the amount of money involved is more than $30,000 but less than $150,000. The defendant charged with this felony can get up anything from two years to ten years in state prison with a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Second Degree Felony
An alleged offender can be charged with a second-degree felony if the amount of money involved is above $150,000 but less than $300,000. A defendant charged with a second-degree felony can be sentenced anywhere between two to twenty years in jail and a fine of $10,000.
First Degree Felony
A defendant can be prosecuted with the first-degree felony if the funds in question are more than $300,000. This felony attracts a jail term of between five years to 99 years in prison together with a hefty fine of $10,000.
The fact that you are charged with money laundering does not prevent state prosecutors to pursue other charges. Some charges that are closely related to money laundering include tax evasion, distribution of drugs, securities fraud and engaging in organized crime.
Some times the defended can be sentenced to life in the Texas Department of Correction depending on the weight of the offense committed.
Sometimes the money involved is transferred across different counties or States. In such a case, the defendant faces the possibility of federal charges. If this happens, the alleged offender risks getting a sever punishment of up to 20 years in prison and either a fine of $500,000 or double the funds laundered, whichever is greater. The federal prosecutors can also charge the defendant with multiple counts of money laundering.
Money Laundering and Civil Asset Forfeiture
When a defendant is facing money laundering charges and the state of Texas seizes funds from him/her, the state can allege forfeiture of the funds because they were illegally obtained. Such a situation is usually challenging especially if the defendant is already facing money laundering charges. Most of the time forfeiture is considered when there is a connection to drug possession.
The key factors considered by the court when determining forfeiture include; the amount of money involved, the funds that are connected to drugs and the evidence linking drugs to the money. It is important to note that if are facing possible civil forfeiture, then you are facing money laundering charges.
“Money laundering charges are very serious and have the potential to ruin both your personal and professional life. This is mainly because they can result in very severe financial penalties and/or serving a long time in prison.”
What Is Involved in Money Laundering Investigation?
An investigation usually commences when law enforcement officers have a possible suspect involved in money laundering. The agents usually gather evidence by capturing audio and video surveillance. More evidence normally mounts as the investigation continues. Once the officers have sufficient proof of the occurrence of a crime, they issue charges against that individual.
At this point, the advice of a well established, money laundering attorney will come in handy to ensure that you get a favorable outcome for your case. As the accused, you will have to refute the charges brought against by applying strong defense strategies. The strategies may involve providing a solid alibi that places you away from the crime scene during the period that the illegal activity occurred.
Money laundering and other charges
When an offender faces possible money laundering charges, there is also a possibility that he/she might be charged for crimes related to that particular offense. This is why hiring a capable attorney is crucial as the related charges might worsen your case by increasing the penalties associated with such charges.
Crimes related to money laundering include drug possession or gang-related violence which carry hefty penalties in Texas. The prosecution in conjunction with law enforcement strives to come up with sufficient evidence which might leave the defense overwhelmed. However, if you have a strong defense team, the charges might be dropped or result in a reduced sentenced.
Importance of Having a Money Laundering Attorney
There are a variety of strategies that your attorney can use to prove your innocence in the courtroom. The strategies generally include providing an alibi, false arrest or wrongful identification. The defense attorney aggressively argues your case by discrediting all the evidence provided by the defense team. Your attorney will also refute the testimonies of the witnesses including those of expert witnesses.
The removal of any connection to other crimes is a crucial defense strategy for your case. Verifying an illegal action as false establishes a solid defense against the issued charges. The importance of having legal representation cannot be overemphasized. This is because, without a dedicated defense team to work in your best interest, you might lose the case even before it begins. Each stage of your case is crucial which is why your lawyer will guide you on how to proceed accordingly.
Based on the strategy of the opposing lawyer, your attorney will know how to defend you while quoting specific laws pertaining to your case. he/she might bring in witnesses and experts to refute the evidence established by the opposing team.
Possible Defenses to Money Laundering
Lack of Intent
Money laundering charges require proof of intent. If the defense team establishes the absence of intent, then the defendant is not responsible for the crime. Providing sufficient evidence that proves the defendant had no knowledge of how the funds were obtained can be a strong defense strategy. Establishing a lack of intent can be challenging especially if the prosecution provides adequate evidence. Having a zealous attorney on your side increases your chances of proving a lack of intent.
Committed the Crime Under Duress
If your defense team can convince the court that you acted under duress when committing the crime. Acting under duress means that you committed the crime because you strongly believed that you or your loved ones would be harmed or in danger if you did not launder money. This defense also applies if the defendant was threatened by another individual to commit the crime.
Lack of Evidence
A crucial component for conviction of money laundering charges is to prove that the accused committed the crime. Your money laundering attorney might question the quality of evidence presented to the court. For instance, in money laundering, establishing proof of where the funds came from is crucial. If the source of the funds was not from illegal activities then it might be challenging for the opposing team to prove otherwise.
Another possible defense involves proving to the court that the defendant had to have legal representation according to his/her rights as stipulated in the 6th amendment in the constitution. The funds received must be ascertained to be bona fide legal fees received by a licensed lawyer.
A lawyer who received funds as payment for legal services provided but had no knowledge of the criminal activity linked to the funds.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
The prosecution should prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. A money-laundering attorney will go to all lengths to refute the charges by conducting an investigation into the case. Money laundering charges receive heavy prosecution as stipulated in the Texas penal code. If you or a family member is facing possible money laundering charges, then the best thing to do is to get in touch with a competent money laundering attorney who will aggressively defend you in court.
Whether you, or a close one or a relative, is in need of legal aid on Immigration; or you are a victim of the Judicial system, we can help you. Keep in mind:
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