Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Velez: Criminal Defense attorney transactions exempt

In U.S. v. Velez, No. 09-10199 (Oct. 26, 2009), the Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a money-laundering count in a prosecution against a criminal defense lawyer, in which the government charged that the lawyer approved of the transfer of funds for a drug dealer’s defense knowing that they were derived from criminal activity.
The Court relied on 18 U.S.C. § 1957(f), which exempts from money-laundering prosecution "any transaction necessary to preserve a person’s representation as guaranteed by the sixth amendment." The Court rejected the government’s argument that the plain meaning of this statute had been modified by a subsequent Supreme Court decision. The Court pointed out that this decision involved a different, civil forfeiture statute. Consequently, the decision had no bearing on the exemption statute.