Before federal agents can make an arrest, they will perform an investigation first. The first thing they must determine is whether or not a federal crime has been committed. If so, they must gather evidence that proves the crime was committed and determine who could have committed it. You may believe that you are a part of a federal investigation as a suspect of the crime, a target of the crime or a witness to the crime. Whatever the case may be, you will need to hire a federal defense attorney.
What Do You Do First if You Are Involved in a Federal Investigation?
Hire a Federal Defense Attorney.
If you are the subject of a federal investigation, the first thing you need to do is ensure that your rights are protected. This is an essential first step if you are the target of the investigation. The federal government may be getting ready to arrest or indict you, so the best thing that you can do is find an attorney with experience in the federal court system. Along with protecting your rights, you also need an attorney to develop a good defense for you and represent you throughout the process if the case goes to trial.
When you find a criminal defense attorney, you must make sure to tell her or him everything you know about the matter at hand. Your attorney will conduct his or her own investigation, but you would be of tremendous help if you were to be honest about all of the details. You can feel free to tell your attorney everything because every word that you say to your lawyer is privileged information. This means that your attorney is not allowed to divulge this information to anyone. Then, your attorney will have the best chances of developing the most appropriate defense for you.
Determine Whether You Are a Target, Subject or a Witness.
You may be a target, subject or a witness in the federal investigation. A target of the investigation is the person the government believes committed the crime. A subject has culpability in committing the crime, but the subject is not the target. At any rate, the government believes that the subject committed wrongdoing. A witness has information about a crime that another person committed. You must not believe that it is better to be a witness or a subject and that you don’t have to worry about obtaining an attorney. The federal government will continue to investigate the crime, and they may discover new evidence that can upgrade your status from suspect to target.
Learn What Your Rights Are.
You have rights whether you are a target, a subject or a witness. Hiring a criminal defense attorney means that you will have someone to explain these rights to you. It will be your attorney’s job to tell you whether or not you violated any laws. If so, your attorney will advise you to assert your Fifth Amendment rights against incriminating yourself.
Decide Whether or Not You Will Speak to Federal Investigators.
It is within your rights to decide to speak to federal investigators. People decide that they want to do this because they know that they are innocent of the charges. It also serves the purpose of demonstrating to federal investigators that you are not guilty. This is a positive action, but it can end up hurting you if you make unintended, self-incriminating statements. For this reason, you do not want to volunteer to speak to investigators without notifying your attorney that you intend to do so. It may not be in your best interests to do this, but your attorney will determine this for you. If your attorney states that you may submit to an interview, he or she will set up ground rules for the questioning.
Create a Detailed Record of Your Meetings with Investigators.
If you met with federal investigators before you had an attorney, don’t worry. You do need to inform your attorney of what the investigators said to you and what you said to the investigators. These should be very detailed notes. The best way to do this is to write a memo to your attorney. A memo begins with an explanation of what the notes contain. At the top of each page, you must write “Attorney-Client Privileged.” These notes must contain absolutely every word that you remember whether it seems important or not. If you remember anything at a later time, add these notes to the document as well.
Make Copies of All Documents Relating to the Investigation.
If you have any documents that relate to the investigation, make copies of these papers so that you can discuss them with your attorney. If they are on a hard drive, make copies of this as well.
Discover How the Investigation Got Started.
Your defense attorney will find out what triggered this investigation. Sometimes, they come about while investigators are investigating other crimes. The defendants in other cases may have incriminated you, and the federal government decided to begin a new investigation because of it. They also occur because of evidence that government agencies discover in their investigations or because someone filed a criminal report.
Allow Your Attorneys to Do What You Hired Them to Do.
Your criminal defense attorneys are powerful advocates for you in the criminal justice system. You would be at a total loss if you didn’t have them, so you must allow your attorneys to do what you are paying them to do. You must cooperate fully and allow them to take the lead. If you fail to do this, the federal government could accuse you of tampering with witnesses or obstructing justice, and this could lead to federal charges. If found guilty on these charges, you may receive a fine. You could also receive a five-year prison sentence or both.