What To Know If You Are the Target of A Federal Investigation:
So you’ve been served with a target letter or grand jury subpoena. That means that the Feds are either investigating you, or believe that you might have information about a criminal case that they’d like to know about.
Now what? Well the first thing you need to do is hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who regularly practices in federal court. There’s a big difference between practicing in State and Federal court and if your lawyer doesn’t know that difference, things could go very badly for you! So make sure the lawyer you hire regularly appears before the federal judges in your district and has a good working relationship with the United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI, DEA, ATF, and United States Secret Service. Those are the agents you’ll likely be dealing with if you’re facing federal criminal charges.
If you’re contacted by an agent from one of these agencies, chances are good that you’ll be put on the spot to give a statement. Anything you say at this point could be used to prosecute you so now’s the time to stop and contact a criminal defense lawyer. Also know that if you lie to a federal agent, it can subject you to prosecution for obstruction of justice and add time to your ultimate sentence.
Tell the agents you want a lawyer present before answering any of their questions. That will generally put a stop to their questioning and buy you some time to find out what’s going on with the case and get some good advice on how to best proceed. The lawyer you hire can then contact the agents to confirm if you’re indeed a target of a federal criminal investigation or merely a potential witness. If you’re a target, odds are good the prosecutor and agents think there is substantial evidence linking you to a crime. That means you are potentially facing indictment, arrest and prosecution. If you get a target letter, that typically means the investigation has been going on for a while. The feds are very thorough and they don’t bring charges unless they’ve spent a great deal of time building a strong case. Now you’ve got to get up to speed on what’s going on. The best way to get that done is by hiring an experienced criminal lawyer who knows where to go and who to contact to get you the answers you need. This is definitely not “do it yourself time.”
A suspect will not always receive a target letter prior to being prosecuted. Sometimes the federal prosecutor will not want a target to know that a grand jury investigation is going on to avoid the possibility of tipping off the suspect or risking that witnesses might be tampered with. If you think that federal agents are investigating your activities, don’t wait to hire a lawyer. A good criminal defense lawyer can do a great deal to help you avoid prosecution at this stage. It’s significantly easier to get a case dismissed prior to an indictment – so bringing an attorney onto your team as soon as possible is important.
Don’t be surprised if federal agents show up at your home or place of business. Federal agents usually travel in pairs and they like to catch unwitting suspects off guard. These agents are very well trained at getting information out of suspects, so it’s critical that you consult with a qualified criminal defense lawyer before you say anything.
Bottom line, if you think you might be either a target of a federal grand jury or a potential witness, consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer before you say or do anything. You’ve got a right to be represented by a lawyer. So exercise that right!