TITLE

THE SUPREME COURT'S INTERPRETATION OF THE WORD "WILLFUL": IGNORANCE OF THE LAW AS AN EXCUSE TO PROSECUTIONS FOR STRUCTURING CURRENCY TRANSACTIONS

AUTHOR(S)
Simon, Lindsey H.
PUB. DATE
March 1995
SOURCE
Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology;Spring95, Vol. 85 Issue 4, p1161
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
This article discusses the case Ratzlaf v. United States, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that to establish a willful violation of the federal statutes that prohibit the structuring of currency transactions, the government must prove that the defendant had knowledge that his conduct was illegal. Structuring occurs when an individual breaks up a sum greater than $10,000 into more than one transaction of smaller amounts for the purpose of evading the federal reporting requirements. The dissent disagreed with the majority's interpretation of the term willful, concluding that the federal structuring statutes require the defendant to have knowledge of the reporting requirement and an intent to evade the filing of a report. In this article, it is argued that the majority chose the wrong definition of the term willful and that the dissent's interpretation of the mental state necessary for a willful violation of the anti-structuring statute is correct. The dissent's interpretation is preferable because it is consistent with lower court holdings and with legislative history, and precludes the use of an ignorance of law defense. Finally, the dissent's interpretation of the anti-structuring statute is preferable because the majority's interpretation renders prosecutorial victories impossible.
ACCESSION #
9509083967

 

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