Often defendants accused of drug trafficking in Texas will also face money laundering charges. Money laundering occurs when an individual conceals or disguises the financial proceeds from criminal activity, often by converting the money into goods or services. The purpose of money laundering is to take “dirty” money earned through illegal activity and “clean” it to make it appear legitimate. It allows criminals to funnel illegally obtained funds into legitimate commerce.
Money laundering is prosecuted at both the state and federal levels in Dallas. State money laundering charges are governed by Texas Penal Code Chapter 34, and federal money laundering charges are governed by U.S.C. § 1956. You can be charged under federal law if the money was transferred across different states or countries.
What are the Texas Penalties for Money Laundering?
Individuals convicted of money laundering face harsh penalties under Texas law. Money laundering is always charged as a felony in Dallas, but the severity of the punishment depends on the amount of money laundered.
- State Jail Felony – If the amount of money laundered was between $2,500 and $30,000, you will be charged with a state jail felony. State jail felonies are punishable by 180 days to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-Degree Felony – If the amount of money laundered was between $30,000 and $150,000, you will be charged with a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable by two to ten years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second-Degree Felony – If the amount of money laundered was between $150,000 to $300,000, you will be charged with a second-degree felony. Second-degree felonies are punishable by two to twenty years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- First-Degree Felony – If the amount of money laundered was $300,000 or more, you will be charged with a first-degree felony. First-degree felonies are punishable by five to 99 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
In addition to money laundering penalties, defendants may also face penalties for drug trafficking and other related crimes.
What are the Federal Penalties for Money Laundering?
If you are charged with money laundering under federal law, you could face even more severe penalties. Each count of money laundering is punishable by up to twenty years in federal prison and a fine of $500,000 or double the amount of money laundered, whichever is greater.
If you engage in several transactions with funds associated with criminal activity, each can be charged as a separate count of money laundering. For example, if you are charged with five counts of money laundering, you could face up to 100 years in prison and a $2,500,000 fine.
The judge will consider various factors when deciding the sentence, including the extent to which the defendant was involved in the criminal scheme and their knowledge regarding the source of the illegal funds. For example, if you knew that the source of the money was unlawful but did not know that it was related to drug trafficking, the judge may be more lenient. The judge will also consider whether the defendant had a criminal record.
Can My Property Be Forfeited in Texas?
A civil asset forfeiture suit is often filed against your property in tandem with money laundering charges in Texas. Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement officers to seize an individual’s personal property (cash, vehicles, real estate, etc.) when they suspect it is connected to criminal activity, including drug trafficking and money laundering.
In Dallas, your property can be forfeited even if you are not convicted of money laundering because the standard of proof is lower for civil forfeiture than a criminal action. The state only has to prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence versus beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Should I Do if I Am Facing Money Laundering Charges in My Drug Trafficking Case?
Money laundering laws are incredibly complicated. As soon as you think that you are the target of an investigation, you should contact an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney. A qualified attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and prepare a strong defense to achieve the best possible outcome.
Your Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have questions about money laundering penalties in drug trafficking cases, you should reach out to an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney. Philip D. Ray is an experienced Dallas attorney who will make sure that your rights are protected. Call Philip D. Ray today to schedule a consultation at (469) 588-6770.