Federal agents can come to your door and demand that you allow them entry, and they don’t have to let you know that they are on their way. This could be a total surprise to you, and that is how they like it. Being able to barge in on your home with the inability to stop them because they have a search warrant gives them the advantage, but learning what you should do when this occurs will tip the odds in your favor.
What Do You Do First?
Federal agents can invade your privacy whenever they feel like it. That means that they can execute a search warrant in the morning or at night. If they have a search warrant, they are entitled to search your property. This is the case for everyone whether they have engaged in criminal activity or not. Even so, you still have your rights, and you must let the federal agents know that you know exactly what they are.
Before a search can occur, you must learn what your rights are in this situation. As a subject under investigation for a federal crime, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Federal agents may begin to interrogate you, but these interrogations are meant to confuse you and force you to confess to crimes you may not have committed. It is not your job to defend yourself at this time; this will be up to your attorney. Anything you say can and will be used against you, so speaking to federal agents without your attorney may result in a conviction on federal charges. Therefore, only talk about this case with your attorney.
Your Second Action
The second thing you must do is gather all of the information you have about the matter. The federal agents will leave the search warrant with you, so you will be able to learn what the search was about with this document. They should also leave you their business cards. The agency the federal agents came from will tell you what type of issue they are investigating. For example, if they came from the Internal Revenue Service, the issue will be related to the tax code.
Your Third Action
While the search is going on, you need to watch the federal agents to ensure that they follow the rules outlined in the U.S. Constitution. If they fail to do this, your attorney may be able to have the evidence the agents find tossed out. This means that they have to act reasonably while they are in your home. For example, they must allow you to get dressed when they arrive, and they must show you the search warrant. When they first arrive, they are required to announce themselves.
During the time that they are in your home, you need to take notes. Write down all of their actions so that you have a record that you can share with your attorney. The information you will need includes what the agents said to you, how many agents showed up at your door, what time it was when they arrived and how you were treated. Write down everything about this time that you possibly can. You will need to write “Attorney-Client Privileged” at the top of each document so that it is clear that these notes are only to be seen by your attorney. Also, explain this at the beginning of your document.
Your Fourth Action
You must hire a federal criminal defense attorney. Then, you can present the documents the agents left you to your attorney. Your lawyer will contact the agents and the prosecutor. The fact that you hire an attorney and begin communicating with the agents will look very good to them. It will show that you believe that you are innocent of any crimes and that you will cooperate with the investigation.
After your lawyer learns what the charges are, he or she can begin working on your defense. This begins with an investigation. The federal government may have been investigating your case for years, so they will be much farther ahead than your attorney will be in this case. Therefore, you must not take too much time hiring your federal criminal defense attorney. It is essential that you hire a criminal defense attorney with experience working in the federal criminal courts. The end result may be that you must stand trial, so your attorney will need to be prepared to represent you.
What Should You Not Do?
You should do several things when faced with a search warrant, but there are also things that you should not do. Your criminal defense attorney will advise you on what those things are, but the first thing you must not do is answer any of the federal agents’ questions. You may believe that you have nothing to hide, but this doesn’t mean that you should talk about this with federal agents. You don’t need to convince the federal agents that you are innocent.
Federal agents can show up at your door with a search warrant, but it is not necessarily valid. A search warrant must be based on the probability that the agents will find evidence that supports a federal crime. If the probable cause statute cannot be met, the search warrant is invalid. Your attorney will move to have any evidence that was confiscated by an invalid search warrant thrown out.
Speaking to federal agents executing a search warrant is unnecessary, so you do not need to lie to these agents. You cannot be punished for failing to answer federal agents’ questions. Lying to federal agents can open you up to additional charges that could result in a five-year prison term.