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Breaking Down Some Complex Federal Criminal Cases

In the seemingly endless "war against drugs," the number of successful prosecutions is basically the only yardstick of success. So, Texas prosecutors are very aggressive in these cases, at both the state and federal level.

Federal and state authorities usually only bring indictments after they have invested substantial amounts of time and money into an investigation. So, there is often an overwhelming amount of evidence in these cases. Most prosecutors count on the "shock and awe" factor to force defendants into quick plea bargains. However, cases like money laundering and drug trafficking have lots of moving parts. Therefore, these cases are not easy for prosecutors to win.

Money Laundering

There are a number of money laundering statutes in both state and federal law. 18 U.S.C. 1956 is one of the most commonly-used ones. This broad law applies to basically four different types of money laundering:

· Promotional,

· Concealment,

· Tax evasion, and

· Structuring.

All four usually involve proceeds of specified crimes (SUAs or "specific unauthorized activities") with either the intent to promote additional offenses or evade federal taxes, or the knowledge that the specified transitions are designed to conceal SUA funds or avoid reporting requirements.

Other money laundering laws include Section 1957. This provision applies to less-complex activities, like spending or depositing tainted funds. As the name implies, Section 1952 (the Travel Act) applies to individuals who cross national boundaries to commit money laundering crimes. An international wire or other transfer is insufficient; the defendant must physically cross the border.

Often, attacking the predicate offense is the best defense strategy in these cases. Government bureaucrats usually assign financial crimes prosecutors to financial crimes cases, especially in places like Tarrant County. Such lawyers are often inexperienced when it comes to basic criminal law issues. This inexperience often plays into the hands of an assertive attorney.

Drug Trafficking

In a way, drug trafficking cases are a lot like money laundering cases but without the predicate offense requirement. Health and Safety Code 481.001 contains most of the drug trafficking laws in Texas. Some common drug trafficking defenses include:

· Lack of Knowledge: Typically, under the statute, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant knew what the substance was and not just that s/he knew it was something illegal. Willful blindness is usually not a defense. Generally, the person who provides the drugs must either lie about what they are or affirmatively refuse to provide information.

· Mistake of Fact: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. But ignorance of fact is a different story. If the defendant honestly believes that the stuff in the bag was baby powder and not cocaine, there may be a defense.

· Duress: This defense is fairly common as well. Many dealers make veiled threats to impose their will upon people who are lower on the food chain.

The penalty usually depends on the amount and type of substance. The seizure of items peripheral to drug trafficking, like weapons and money, may play a role as well.

Complex financial crimes are difficult, but not impossible, to defend. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. Convenient payment plans are available. 

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