Supreme Court Raises Doubts About the Money-Laundering Trap

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Federal Criminal Law & Process, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Supreme Court Raises Doubts About the Money-Laundering Trap

The federal money-laundering statute prohibits both the concealment of proceeds from crime and the use of such proceeds to promote illegal activities.  While designed primarily with drug kingpins in mind, the statute’s broad language can easily become a trap for low-level criminals doing fairly routine things.  (I posted recently on a good example of an aggressive use of the money-laundering statute.)  Expansive readings of the statute mean that the penalties attached by Congress to many predicate offenses become meaningless, as nearly everyone becomes subject to the twenty-year maximum prison term triggered by a money-laundering conviction.  Responding to this concern, the Supreme Court recently adopted narrow constructions of the money-laundering statute in two cases, United States v. Santos, 128 S.Ct. 2020 (2008), and Cuellar v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 1994 (2008).  The cases may point the way towards a more discriminating money-laundering jurisprudence that attempts to reserve the harsh penalties of the statute for the most deserving defendants. Continue reading “Supreme Court Raises Doubts About the Money-Laundering Trap”

Edwards and Erosion of the Defendant’s Right to Self-Represent

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, U.S. Supreme Court1 Comment on Edwards and Erosion of the Defendant’s Right to Self-Represent

In June, the Supreme Court offered its’ latest pronouncement on the right of criminal defendants to represent themselves in court.  The Court first recognized this constitutional right in 1975 in Faretta v. California, a case that I like to present in my Criminal Procedure course as one of the few instances in which the Supreme Court has given any real weight to the dignitary interests of criminal defendants (which are usually subordinated in criminal procedure to competing objectives, such as judicial economy and reliable fact-finding).  I think the Court was right that it is profoundly demeaning for the state to force a lawyer on an unwilling defendant, and then authorize the lawyer to decide how the defendant’s story will be presented to the jury.  (I discussed this point at greater length in this essay a few years ago.)  Yet, the Court’s post-Faretta decisions have generally worked to diminish the scope of the right to self-representation, and the most recent (Indiana v. Edwards, 128 S.Ct. 2379 (2008)) is no exception. Continue reading “Edwards and Erosion of the Defendant’s Right to Self-Represent”

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