CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Supreme Court Holds No Overt Act is Required for Money Laundering Conspiracy

Supreme_court_10Resolving a split in the circuits, the Supreme Court held yesterday in Whitfield v. U.S. that a conviction for conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of §1956(h), does not require proof of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.  From the syllabus:

"Section 1956(h) provides: 'Any person who conspires to commit any offense defined in [§1956] or section 1957 shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.' In United States v. Shabani, 513 U. S. 10, this Court held that the nearly identical language of the drug conspiracy statute, 21 U. S. C. §846, does not require proof of an over act. The Shabani Court found instructive the distinction between §846 and the general conspiracy statute, 18 U. S. C. §371, which supersedes the common law rule by expressly including an overt-act requirement. Shabani distilled the governing rule for conspiracy statutes: Nash v. United States, 229 U. S. 373, and Singer v. United States, 323 U. S. 338, ' 'give Congress a formulary: by choosing a text modeled on §371, it gets an overt-act requirement; by choosing a text modeled on the Sherman Act, 15 U. S. C. §1 [which, like 21 U. S. C. §846, omits any express overt-act requirement], it dispenses with such a requirement.' ' 513 U. S., at 14. This rule dictates the outcome here as well: Because §1956(h)'s text does not expressly make the commission of an overt act an element of the conspiracy offense, the Government need not prove an overt act to obtain a conviction."  [Mark Godsey]

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