If you are facing a federal investigation, you need to take action to protect yourself. Federal agencies have been stepping up their enforcement efforts in various areas – healthcare fraud and antitrust violations among them – and many innocent individuals and organizations are finding themselves the subjects or targets of federal grand jury investigations. Unfortunately, federal investigations can have substantial detrimental effects even when they don’t lead to prosecution; and, as the subject of an investigation, your top priority needs to be on your defense.
Moreover, federal charges are increasingly being brought against people who did not have any idea that they were committing a crime. In other words, just because you know you are innocent does not mean that you will not end up charged, and potentially convicted. Hiring an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as you learn of an investigation is critical to minimize your risk of a life-altering federal indictment.
Why Hire an Attorney During Your Investigation?
The moment a federal investigation begins, your freedom and livelihood are in serious jeopardy. By the time you learn of an investigation, federal agents have likely already determined in their minds that you are guilty. The purpose of them contacting you is not to hear your side of the story; it is to obtain incriminating statements and information before you have a lawyer.
As a result, it is important to speak with a defense attorney as soon as you find out (or even if you suspect) that you are the subject of a federal investigation. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney may be able to do a number of different things to help protect you. These include:
1. Avoiding Unnecessary Disclosures
During the investigation, federal agents will likely seek to obtain a statement from you and to collect documents to use to convict you of a federal crime. The purpose of these inquiries is rarely to hear your side of the story. So you should not give the government any information that you are not legally required to disclose, certainly not before developing a comprehensive strategy for responding to the inquiry with the help of an experienced federal defense lawyer. Such a lawyer will be able to help you avoid accidentally and unnecessarily disclosing information that will be used to try to put you in prison, take your assets, and end your career.
2. Avoiding Criminal Charges
If there is a good explanation for the issue under investigation, the time to present that explanation is not the moment agents show up at your door. Agents do not want to hear why you are not guilty. Their job is to build a case against you, a case that will end in you being convicted of a federal crime.
In order words, agents are not the right audience for your side of the story. An experienced federal criminal defense lawyer will talk with the federal prosecutor about the investigation and then develop a strategy for presenting your side of the story to the decision maker—the prosecutor.
Agents respect people who know and exercise their rights. They hope that people will not hire a lawyer because it makes the job of convicting them difficult. But they will not believe you are guilty simply because you exercise your right to counsel. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you have to speak to a federal agent or you will look guilty—in all likelihood, they already believe you are guilty or they would not be at your door.
The best chance of avoiding criminal charges is to treat the investigation as a serious matter. Politely decline to speak to an investigator without a lawyer, ask the agent for his or her card, and tell her that you will have your lawyer contact them immediately. Doing so shows the agent that you understand the seriousness of the situation and maximizes your chances of avoiding prosecution.
3. Developing a Comprehensive Defense Strategy
By the time you find out that you are a target of a federal grand jury investigation, the government has likely already put a substantial amount of work into your case – and this means that you are already at a distinct disadvantage. If you don’t hire an attorney until you get charged, you will be giving up the opportunity to begin building your defense, gathering necessary evidence, and negotiating with prosecutors before your case makes its way to the federal court system.
This early work can make all the difference. Rather than reacting to the moves of others, by involving an experienced federal criminal defense attorney early on, you can take the initiative and increase your chances of proving your innocence.
4. Mitigating Criminal Penalties
If criminal charges are unavoidable, your defense attorney can begin working on your defense during the investigation.
With the punishment for many serious federal offenses involving hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in fines, long-term imprisonment, mandatory forfeiture of assets and other harsh penalties, you need to do everything possible to mitigate the consequences of a conviction.
While the first and second lines of defense will be to avoid a charge and to prove your innocence, if the facts are on the government’s side, your defense may need to focus on limiting your sentence. In certain circumstances, it may also be possible to have your case moved to state court in order to avoid the harsh federal sentencing guidelines. In any event, the sooner you engage an attorney to represent you, the better your chances of minimizing the negative consequences of a federal criminal investigation.
Contact the Raleigh Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys at Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC Today
The federal defense attorneys at Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC have decades of experience representing high-profile clients in federal investigations. If you are facing a federal investigation, call (919) 833-3114 or contact us online to speak with an attorney in confidence today.