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Money Laundering Charges: Here’s How a White Collar Crimes Attorney Can Defend You

By Spodek Law Group | October 20, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 21, 2023)

Last Updated on: 21st October 2023, 08:42 am


Money Laundering Charges: How a New Jersey White Collar Crimes Attorney Can Defend You

Getting charged with money laundering can be scary. The penalties are severe, and the legal issues involved can be complex. But with an experienced New Jersey white collar crimes defense attorney on your side, you have a much better chance of avoiding conviction or reducing the charges. Here’s an overview of how a skilled lawyer can defend you against money laundering allegations in New Jersey:

Understanding the Charges

The first thing a good lawyer will do is thoroughly examine the specific charges you are facing. In New Jersey, money laundering charges fall under N.J.S.A. 2C:21-25. There are a few ways prosecutors can allege you violated this statute:

  • Transporting or possessing illegally acquired property
  • Engaging in transactions to conceal illegal proceeds
  • Making false statements regarding illegal proceeds
  • Structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements

The degree of the charges depends on the amount of money involved. 1st degree charges apply to amounts over $500,000, 2nd degree is $75,000 to $500,000, and 3rd degree is under $75,000. Your lawyer will analyze the complaint to see exactly what degree you are charged with.

Assessing the Evidence

Prosecutors must prove you knew the funds came from illegal activity. Your attorney will thoroughly examine all the evidence they have against you. This may include financial records, statements from witnesses, surveillance footage, etc. If the evidence seems weak, your lawyer can file motions to have charges dismissed before trial.

Exploring Defenses

There are several legal defenses that could potentially defeat money laundering charges:

  • Lack of knowledge – If there is no solid proof you knew the funds were from illegal sources, this can defeat charges. Your lawyer may argue you were an “innocent owner” who accepted funds without knowing their origin.
  • No underlying crime – If the funds did not actually come from illegal activity, then money laundering charges may not apply. Your attorney can investigate the source of the funds.
  • Entrapment – If you were induced by law enforcement to commit money laundering, this may be entrapment. A skilled lawyer can file to have charges dismissed on this basis.
  • Statute of limitations – There is a 5 year statute of limitations on money laundering in NJ. If the transactions occurred longer ago, the charges could potentially be barred.

Negotiating with Prosecutors

An experienced white collar crimes lawyer will advocate aggressively on your behalf. In many cases, they may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to get charges reduced or even dismissed. This depends on the strength of the evidence and your lack of a prior record. At a minimum, skillful negotiation could lead to a better plea deal if charges cannot be defeated pre-trial.

Taking Your Case to Trial

If charges are not dismissed pre-trial, your attorney may recommend taking your case to trial. At trial, the burden is on prosecutors to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer will vigorously cross-examine witnesses and challenge evidence. If you are found not guilty at trial, you avoid any penalties.

Sentencing Mitigation

If you are convicted after trial or choose to take a plea deal, your lawyer can advocate for the lowest possible sentence. They will present mitigating factors to the judge, such as your lack of criminal history, positive contributions to the community, family obligations, mental health issues, or any other reasons why you deserve leniency. This could make a big difference in the penalties you face.

Avoiding Deportation

Non-citizens charged with money laundering also face potential immigration consequences. Money laundering over $100,000 is considered an “aggravated felony” under federal law and can lead to deportation. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea to a non-deportable offense or otherwise minimize immigration impacts.

How an Attorney Can Help at Each Stage

Here is an overview of how an experienced white collar crimes lawyer can defend you at each stage of a money laundering case:

Investigation Stage

  • Advise you not to speak to police without your lawyer present
  • Send letters to prosecutors explaining weaknesses in the case
  • Negotiate to prevent charges from being filed

Arrest & Charging Stage

  • Advocate for low or no bail so you can be released pre-trial
  • Determine which degree of charges you are facing based on money amounts
  • File motions to dismiss charges if evidence is insufficient

Pre-Trial Stage

  • File motions to suppress evidence that was obtained illegally
  • Conduct independent investigation to uncover exculpatory evidence
  • Negotiate with prosecutors to get charges reduced or dismissed

Trial Stage

  • Voir dire potential jurors to select a favorable jury
  • Cross examine prosecution witnesses and challenge their credibility
  • Present expert witnesses on banking practices to counter prosecution claims
  • Make compelling opening and closing arguments highlighting reasonable doubt

Sentencing Stage

  • Gather evidence and letters attesting to your good character and contributions
  • Present mitigating circumstances to argue for lower sentence
  • Advocate for alternative sentences to incarceration if appropriate

Appeal Stage

  • Raise issues like improper denial of pre-trial motions, evidentiary errors, ineffective assistance of counsel etc.
  • Argue that your conviction/sentence violates state or federal law

Having an experienced white collar crimes attorney in your corner can make all the difference in how your money laundering case plays out. The stakes are high, so be sure to secure skilled legal representation right away if you are facing these charges in New Jersey.

Common Questions about Money Laundering Charges in NJ

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about defending against money laundering allegations in New Jersey:

What are the penalties for money laundering in NJ?

The penalties depend on the degree of the charges:

  • 1st degree (over $500,000) – 10 to 20 years in prison, fines up to $500,000 or 3x the funds
  • 2nd degree ($75,000 to $500,000) – 5 to 10 years in prison, fines up to $150,000 or 3x the funds
  • 3rd degree (under $75,000) – 3 to 5 years in prison, fines up to $15,000 or 3x the funds

What are common ways money laundering occurs?

  • Mixing illegally obtained cash with proceeds from a legitimate business
  • Making deposits under $10,000 to avoid federal reporting requirements
  • Using shell companies or fronts to disguise the source of funds
  • Engaging in sham financial transactions to create appearance of legitimacy

Can money laundering charges be federal?

Yes, money laundering over $10,000 can be charged federally under 18 USC §§ 1956 and 1957. This carries up to 20 years in federal prison. The conduct may violate both state and federal laws.

Can assets be seized in a money laundering case?

Yes, assets purchased with laundered funds or used to facilitate money laundering can be seized civilly or criminally. Experienced counsel may be able to fight asset seizure.

Can I negotiate a plea deal in a money laundering case?

Yes, an experienced attorney can often negotiate a favorable plea bargain with reduced charges and/or sentencing recommendations, depending on the case specifics. Quick plea negotiations are often beneficial.

Can I get diversion or ARD for money laundering?

Diversionary programs like ARD are rarely offered for money laundering charges, since it is a serious felony. But your lawyer can argue for ARD or drug court in appropriate cases, especially for first-time offenders.


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