California Statutory Law defines money laundering as either attempting to conduct one or more transactions that facilitate criminal activity or knowingly using funds derived from a criminal enterprise.
This definition is broad and therefore leaves a wide berth of interpretation for courts and law enforcement. There are, however, several specificities which California law requires.
To get a conviction, courts must demonstrate that the defendant made such transactions in amounts above $5,000 within a single week, or $25,000 within a single month.
The law also requires that these transactions involve a financial institution such as a bank or credit union and that the defendant made them with the specific intent of furthering criminal activity for personal gain.
This means that there are several legitimate defenses against money laundering charges. One common defense is that the defendant did not know that the funds derived from criminal activity and did not have the specific intent to aid criminal enterprise.
Typically, authorities will not bring a charge if the amounts in question did not exceed the thresholds, however, a defense may argue that the funds were commingled with legitimate money. For example, if the transaction in question totaled $15,000, his defense could argue that only $4,000 of that derived from illegal activity and the remaining amount was from a legitimate business.
Another defense could demonstrate that the transactions did not involve a qualifying financial institution — however, this defense could potentially fail to hold water depending on the jurisdiction, as federal laws do not make this requirement.
Other defenses may apply on a case-by-case basis. For example, under some conditions, a good lawyer could have the case thrown out due to misconduct by law enforcement or other malpractice.