What To Do If You Are Under Federal Investigation


Many people have called me, believing that they are investigated by the federal government and federal law enforcement agencies. Before discussing what to do when you are legitimately under federal investigation, it’s important to point out some things that many people erroneously believe.

  • It is highly unlikely that the federal government is “bugging” your phones and listening to your calls. In order to get the authorization to conduct a wiretap investigation, prosecutor must put together a voluminous application and present it to a federal judge in order to demonstrate that interception of real time communication is vital to an ongoing criminal investigation and that no alternative less intrusive methods are likely to be successful. Wiretaps are most commonly authorized in major narcotics conspiracy case, complex white collar investigations, and matters of national security.
  • It is also highly unlikely that federal agents are surveilling you. Federal investigators have highly sophisticated methods that do away with the need to physically follow you around. Some of those methods include, GPS tracking devices (obtained by a court order), and cellphone tower data (also known as call detail records) that serve as an alternate form of location tracking.

These beliefs aside, there are some indicators that you could be under federal criminal investigation and that you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney sooner rather than later. Let’s start with the obvious.

If a federal agent (or two as they normally work in pairs) approaches you and would like to speak with you about a particular matter, you have the right to politely decline to do so until and unless you speak with a criminal defense attorney. A common misperception is that police must read you your Miranda rights before questioning you. This is true of a ‘consensual encounter’ in which you are approached by agents given that you are totally free to walk away and not in custody.

Another indicator that you may be under federal investigation is that you get notice from your bank or some other vendor that your records have been the subject of a subpoena (likely a grand jury subpoena) or a court order. You will be told that you have the right to object to the subpoena, but you may not know where the subpoena or court order originated. Once again, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney will see this as an invitation to investigate and try and flesh out why your records are being sought and if you are the subject of a federal criminal investigation. In my experience, this has allowed be to get in front of cases and achieve results for my clients that never would have occurred had they simply ignored the notice or hired someone who did not have substantial experience in federal court.

Sometimes, people under federal investigation will received what is known as a ‘target letter.’ Although, I have written about this extensively in the past, a target letter is a letter written by federal prosecutor to someone whom they are believe they may charge with one or more federal crimes. Why would they give notice to someone in that position? It’s simple.

Sometimes federal prosecutors actually want you to contact them, with the assistance of an attorney, of course, as they may be on the fence about whether or not to charge you and are looking for information to dissuade them from doing so. Some people may have committed federal crimes, but are not the ‘big fish’ in the investigation so prosecutors are looking for information. While this is an individual decision that is up to a client, sometimes this type of situation results in a very favorable plea agreement in light of cooperation, and sometimes it results in no charges being filed.

Having practiced law for more than 25 years, represented many clients charged with federal crimes, and having conducted numerous federal jury trials, I can honestly say that no two cases are alike. Each case is unique just as each of the individuals are being investigated or charged. If you are being investigated for a federal criminal offense, or if you have already been charged, it’s critical to get proper representation to protect your interests. Plenty of criminal defense attorney will tell you that they handle federal criminal cases, but “handling” something isn’t good enough when your freedom and your future are at stake. Do your homework and look into my credentials yourself. Then contact me so we can develop a customized strategy to get you the best possible outcome from your federal criminal matter.

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