Being involved in a federal criminal investigation can be an incredibly stressful thing to experience, especially when the outcome could radically alter your entire life. From hiring a federal criminal defense attorney to understanding what to do and what not to do during an investigation, a high-stakes situation like a federal investigation is not one the be taken lightly. There may be serious consequences for how you first respond to being a part of a federal investigation, and you want to ensure you have the best representation on your side from the start.
What Does It Mean to Be a Part of a Federal Investigation?
If you find yourself involved in a federal investigation, know that it does not necessarily mean you are the subject of the investigation. Your involvement and input may be required in the process of another federal investigation. However, you do need to understand how investigations generally work in order to understand how your actions could potentially impact the investigation and your future or the future or another individual.
During a federal investigation, one or more government agencies, like the FBI, DEA, IRS, or ICE, look into a claim that a crime has been committed. The crime could have been brought to attention by a victim, a witness, or a third party. Investigations take place prior to any arrests, as the entire purpose of an investigation is to determine whether or not a crime has actually been committed. The investigation will also look into who potentially committed the crime, and investigators will collect the appropriate evidence to prove that a certain party did indeed commit a crime.
If you become aware that you are part of an investigation, you should hire a federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Regardless of if you’re the primary subject of the investigation or not, you need to make the right choices throughout the entirety of the investigation, and having experienced and knowledgeable attorneys on your side will help a great deal.
Things You Should Do if Under Investigation
When you find yourself in the midst of an investigation, it can be an unnerving and emotional experience. Investigations can be stressful and aggressive, and they can last as long as several years. It is important you follow some simple guidelines in order for this process to go as smoothly as possible.
Hire an Attorney
The very first thing you need to do in order to prepare yourself for a federal investigation is to hire a criminal federal defense attorney. You can never hire an attorney too early in the process, especially if you are the subject of the federal investigation.
Know Your Rights
A skilled and knowledgeable criminal federal defense attorney will make sure that you understand your rights during this investigation process. An attorney can help guide you in how to exercise your right to plead the 5th amendment, for example. Your attorney will also help you understand what information you are and are not obligated to tell the police and federal investigators.
Be Honest with Your Attorney
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is crucial that once you hire a federal criminal defense attorney that you are completely honest with them about every detail that pertains to the investigation. Their job is to do their own homework to understand the circumstances of the investigation, but you should volunteer any information that might affect the outcome of the investigation.
Understand Your Role in the Investigation
Your attorney can also help you understand which of the three roles in an investigation you’re playing: subject, target, or witness. Subjects aren’t the main suspects of an investigation, but are considered potentially linked to a suspect or crime. Targets of investigation are the suspects believed to have committed the crime in question. Witnesses in an investigation are believed to have information about the alleged crime.
Keep Detailed Records
If you are speaking with authorities, it’s important to document what was said by you and the authorities during the conversation. You can document these conversations in memos to your attorney. You should make sure you include “Attorney-Client Privileged” on the top of every memo, as it will include highly detailed and confidential information. Keep copies of any important documents pertaining to the case, and make sure to have both printed copies and digital copies for safekeeping.
Decide Whether or Not to Cooperate with the Investigation
Along with your attorney, you can decide whether or not you want to talk with federal authorities as a part of the investigation. You may decide that speaking with authorities will help you out in the long run, but you may decide that doing so will not benefit you, in which case you would not speak with authorities. This decision is not to be made lightly, and it should be finalized with the insight and advisement of your legal representation.
Things Not to Do If Under Investigation
During the course of the investigation, it is critical that you avoid certain behaviors. You should not be speaking to anyone about the investigation, other than your attorney. Do not agree to be interviewed by anyone without your attorney present. Do not lie to your attorney or to anyone you speak to in accordance with the investigation, and definitely do not destroy any documents that could potentially pertain to the investigation. Any of these actions could be considered obstruction of justice and could lead to additional charges and penalties.
If you’re facing a federal investigation and need a federal criminal defense attorney to fight for you, contact Lowther Walker, LLC today.