California Money Laundering Laws

California Money Laundering Laws

California’s money laundering laws are some of the strictest in the nation. The state has billions of dollars in assets and business every year. It has to ensure that these businesses are legitimate and not being propelled by dirty money. Anyone facing such charges has to know about their details and potential penalties if they hope to mount a good defense.

Types of Money Laundering

There are many different types of money laundering that can be prosecuted in California according to California Penal Code Section 186.10 PC. One of these is laundering through a cash-intensive business. A common way to launder money is by inflating the sales of businesses like car washes and nail salons that deal primarily with cash purchases. There is also the possibility of white-collar crime through racketeering/RICO and laundering money through real estate transactions and work with trades. Both of these areas have instances where an individual can launder money through overpaying on a house or a tiling job.

Cases and Penalties

Most cases of white-collar crime like money laundering are prosecuted with evidence ranging from witness testimony to bank records and surveillance. In many instances, there is an audit or tip that leads law enforcement to business. Law enforcement closely tracks the activity of the business and looks for the moment at which the illegitimate money comes in or out. The minimum sentence for money laundering according to California Penal Code Section 186.10 PC mostly revolve around the severity of the case and an individual’s criminal history. Prosecutors have to deal with money laundering first as a Wobbler crime. A Wobbler crime designation means that prosecutors have to decide whether or not an individual should be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor charges carry up to one year in county jail or a $1,000 fine. Felony charges can lead to an individual receiving a maximum penalty of several years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. These penalties increase considerably if the money laundering is part of racketeering/RICO. Individuals who are facing their first convictions can often secure a much lighter minimum sentence for money laundering. They may not even have to go to prison in the case of minor punishment for money laundering.

What to do

The vast majority of individuals arrested for money laundering are sent through the typical arrest and bail process. They are sent to the county jail until their court date or until they can post bail. These individuals need to secure release from jail as quickly as possible. Once they arrive home, they should contact an attorney immediately and begin to prepare a defense. The attorney will often request that an individual presents an entire accounting of everything that they had spent and brought in to detect any possible illegal money sources. Attorneys want to show that an individual’s money is legitimate and that there were no illegal money sources. If not, an attorney will sometimes focus on improprieties by law enforcement or the reliability of other witnesses. They will often take this information to a prosecutor and attempt to plea down to a lesser charge. If the plea deal for financial crime is not to an individual’s liking, that individual will often push for a trial where they are represented by their attorney. They need to listen to the attorney’s advice for their financial crime. An attorney is committed to making sure that they secure the best deal possible for their clients.


People arrested for money laundering in California may be worried or concerned. Some may not think that their charges are serious or can be beaten. But everyone who faces a money laundering charge must go through the bail process and secure release as soon as possible. They must enlist the help of an attorney and do whatever they legally and morally can to fight these charges. A money laundering conviction and punishment for money laundering can easily derail a career, life, or family. It is not something that should be taken lightly by any defendant.

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