What to Do If You’re the Subject of a Federal Investigation
So you’re the subject of a federal investigation? This likely means you’ve been contacted by an agent working for the FBI, SEC, Postmaster General, etc., or you’ve received the dreaded “target letter” from the United States Attorney warning you that a Federal Grand Jury is going to be meeting to decide whether or not to indict you. You may have received a Grand Jury subpoena asking you or your company to produce business documents, bank records, or emails. In more extreme circumstances, Federal Agents may have executed a search warrant on your property. Now what?
It is usually advisable to immediately contact a criminal attorney that is familiar with the federal criminal justice system. It may be tempting to talk with friends, family members or co-workers about your situation. However, you should not talk to anyone, including the investigating authorities, about your case or the investigation until you have hired a criminal attorney. Statements you make, other than those made to your attorney, are generally not confidential and could be used against you in some manner in the future.
You also do not want to produce any documentation to the authorities or the Grand Jury until you allow an attorney to review these records to determine if there is an argument against being forced to make such a production. It is important to retain all documents, as destruction of documents relevant to an investigation could indicate a consciousness of guilt and could actually lead to additional charges for obstruction of justice.
If you can, you should hire a federal criminal attorney prior to being charged. This allows the attorney more time to assist the client before formal charges are actually brought. If there is evidence proving your innocence, your attorney can attempt to strategically bring this information to the attention of the proper authorities to avoid charges all together. If charges are unavoidable, your attorney may be able to influence the charges that are brought to mitigate your exposure to jail or financial punishment.
Some people may feel they don’t want to go to the expense of hiring an attorney until charges are actually brought. By then, it may be too late. It is common for the authorities to seize a defendant’s assets before they are even charged with a crime. They can freeze your bank and brokerage accounts and file claims against your personal property and real estate, even before bringing a formal asset forfeiture action against you. This can be accomplished without your prior knowledge and without your ability to fight. Once this occurs, your ability to hire an attorney of your choosing will be severely impaired. While you are still entitled to an attorney, it will be a criminal attorney appointed by the Court.
So just be quiet, don’t give them anything, and call a criminal lawyer.