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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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How Do Federal Criminal Investigations Begin? Understanding the Process

By Spodek Law Group | October 19, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 20, 2023)

Last Updated on: 20th October 2023, 09:33 am


How Do Federal Criminal Investigations Begin? Understanding the Process

So you’re wondering how federal criminal investigations get started? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

As a kinda average Joe myself, I used to think federal investigations were this big mysterious process that I’d never understand. But after doing some research and talking to a few legal experts, I’ve got a pretty good handle on how the whole thing usually goes down.

In this article, we’ll walk through the typical steps of how a federal criminal investigation begins, who’s involved, and what it could mean for you if you ever find yourself caught up in one. I’ll try to break it down in simple terms, so no law degree required!

What Triggers a Federal Investigation in the First Place?

First things first – for a federal criminal investigation to kick off, something’s gotta trigger it.

Here’s some of the main ways that happens:

  • A Crime Report is Filed – If someone reports a potential federal crime to the authorities, like a bank robbery or a threat against a government official, it’ll usually trigger an investigation. Pretty straightforward.
  • Informants Snitch – Sometimes folks who get busted for their own crimes will offer up info on other criminal activity, hoping for a lighter sentence. We’re talking insider trading, drug rings, fraud schemes – anything illegal.
  • Data Analysis – Federal agencies like the IRS love crunching numbers. If they notice odd patterns in financial records, big suspicious transactions, or big discrepancies in reports, it could lead them to open an investigation. No fun getting audited!
  • Undercover Stings – The feds sometimes go undercover to infiltrate criminal operations. Like posing as a potential buyer for illegal weapons, joining an online forum planning illegal activity, etc. Sneaky!

So in a nutshell, if the feds catch wind of potential illegal activity through any of these channels, it can prompt them to dig deeper with a full-on criminal investigation.

The Feds Don’t Mess Around – They Have Resources

Once a federal investigation does get opened, you can bet it’s gonna be thorough. Federal agencies have way more time, money, and manpower compared to local police departments.

We’re talking surveillance teams, undercover operatives, wiretaps, joint task forces…the works! They’ll even raid suspects’ homes at like 5am to catch people off guard. Talk about intimidating.

Some of the main federal agencies that conduct criminal investigations include:

  • FBI – all kinds of crimes
  • DEA – drug crimes
  • ATF – firearms and explosives crimes
  • IRS – tax crimes and financial fraud
  • ICE – immigration crimes
  • Secret Service – counterfeiting, cybercrimes

You get the idea – they’ve got specialized agents for all types of federal offenses. And they usually work closely with federal prosecutors right from the start, to build rock solid cases.

So yeah, if the feds have you on their radar for a criminal investigation, it’s definitely not something to take lightly.

How Do You Know If You’re Under Investigation?

Now you might be wondering – how the heck would I even know if I’m under federal investigation?

Excellent question. Sometimes the feds play it super close to the vest. An investigation could be going on for months or even years before you find out.

But there’s a few signs that may tip you off, like if:

  • Feds show up at your home or office with a search warrant
  • You get a target letter saying you’re under investigation
  • Feds start questioning your friends/colleagues about you
  • Your accounts get frozen unexpectedly

Basically anything that indicates the feds are snooping around in your business. Not a good feeling.

If you suspect you might be getting scrutinized, it’s probably best to call a lawyer ASAP. Like yesterday. You want an expert on your side who can advise you on your rights and options.

And if federal agents do reach out to question you, politely decline to answer questions without your attorney present. I know it feels awkward, but it’s what’s best for you legally.

What Should You Do if You’re Under Investigation?

Let’s say the feds are definitely on your case – they’ve executed search warrants, seized evidence, started interrogating folks.

Now what?

Here’s my advice:

  • Don’t Panic – Easier said than done, I know! But losing your cool can cause you to make poor choices. Take a breath and focus on smart next steps.
  • Call a Lawyer – Seriously, this is key. An experienced federal defense lawyer can help protect your rights and build the strongest case. Don’t delay!
  • Keep Quiet – Anything you say can and will be used against you. So avoid the temptation to explain yourself to investigators. Let your lawyer do the talking.
  • Gather Evidence – If there’s anything that could help prove your innocence, like records, documents, etc. get them organized ASAP. It’ll help your legal team.
  • Follow Your Lawyer’s Lead – They’ll know the ins and outs of the federal system way better than you. So lean on their expertise and follow their advice.

I know it’s scary and stressful if the full force of federal law enforcement comes down on you. But by acting swiftly and smartly, you can try to get the best possible outcome.

Hopefully this guide gave you a better sense of how federal criminal investigations get started and what to do if you ever find yourself on the wrong end of one. Let’s just say I’d rather watch Netflix and eat tacos than deal with the feds poking around in my business! Stay safe out there friends.

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