The Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday that money laundering requires actually, you know, laundering the money. Merely hiding cash so someone won’t find it no longer qualifies as laundering.
This was one of a pair of the decisions handed down Monday that could make it harder for prosecutors to win convictions for money laundering. This law has been one of the government’s most powerful weapons in the war on drugs.
In the second ruling, the court said the law against money laundering applies only to the profits of an illegal operation, not all of the cash it generates.
This is good news, because it cuts back on one of the abuses of the drug war — that of piling on all sorts of multiple charges for the same offense.
Defense lawyers complained the law was used to press defendants to plead guilty to other crimes, such as drug dealing. A conviction for money laundering can result in up to 20 years in prison.