Understanding Federal Investigations
The federal criminal court system is an intimidating place. Federal investigators have big budgets and can take their time investigating and bringing charges. By the time federal investigators contact a suspect, they usually have already built a strong case against them.
If you live in North Texas and have been contacted by federal investigators or believe that you are under federal investigation, you must contact an experienced federal defense attorney as soon as possible. In this article, we will explain federal investigations and what you should do if you think you are a target of a federal investigation.
Two Types of Federal Investigations
Most federal crimes involve extensive federal investigations before an arrest is made. There are two types of federal criminal cases: reactive and investigative.
What are Reactive Federal Cases?
Federal reactive criminal cases are those that pose an immediate public threat. Federal agencies act quickly and swiftly to make an arrest. This fast reactionary approach is similar to how most state crimes are handled, but they are investigated by federal agencies and prosecuted in federal courts. The main difference between state and federal reactive cases is that federal cases tend to be more complex, involving multiple jurisdictions and defendants. Federal prosecutors also have more resources at their disposal, including the FBI and other federal agencies. In recent years, the number of federal reactive cases has increased significantly, due to the rise of terrorism and organized crime.
What are Investigative Federal Cases?
Most federal offenses are the result of extensive investigation. They focus more on details and less on speed. For example, a person who falsely bills Medicaid for work that was never done might be prosecuted for Medicaid Fraud under 18 USC 1035. These investigations can often take a year or longer. Also, unlike in reactive cases, the federal government will often inform suspects that they are the target of prosecution.
Let’s say someone is being investigated on suspicion of Embezzlement of a Financial Institution under 18 USC 656 or even Possession of Child Pornography under 18 USC § 2252A or 2260. These are very serious federal crimes that are likely to be conducted through an extensive investigation. When a suspect is identified, agents will often knock on the suspect’s door to ask questions well before an arrest. Federal agents may execute search warrants to obtain computer files or anything they deem as evidence.
Another classic investigative case is Tax Evasion, officially called an Attempt to Evade or Defeat Taxes under 26 USC § 7201. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents almost always investigate these cases, which are intensive and time-consuming. Many of these agents are CPAs and are members of IRS-CI (IRS-Criminal Investigation). These agents are trained to interrogate suspected tax cheats and analyze tax and business data.
Even without an arrest, anyone who is contacted by federal agents should seek out a seasoned federal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
The Basis for Federal Cases
Federal cases are usually designed to prosecute criminal enterprises, not single individuals. As such, individual criminal acts are left unprosecuted until the larger criminal enterprise is dismantled.
For example, drug distribution cases under 21 USC §§ 841 and 846 often include multiple defendants, multiple searches, wiretaps, traffic stops, and camera surveillance. Similarly, if a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent sets up a planned traffic stop of a suspected drug dealer, local police might pull a suspect over under the guise of a traffic stop, and then develop cause to search the person and their vehicle.
Even if the suspect’s car contains narcotics or a large amount of money suspected to be drug proceeds, the officer will sometimes only seize the drugs and/or money and not arrest the suspect. In this situation, the officer doesn’t want to tip off the suspect that the DEA might be investigating his supplier – or even his supplier’s supplier.
Also, the seized cash could be the subject of a forfeiture case under 18 USC § 981.
How Do I Know If I Am Under Federal Investigation?
Think you’re being investigated by federal agents? Here are four scenarios that could indicate that a criminal case is being built against you:
- Federal Agents Want to Talk to You
Federal agents may visit your residence to try and talk to you, or they might leave a card with a note asking you to call them. If you call them or answer the door, they might tell you they just want to “eliminate you as a suspect,” or “clarify the situation.”
There is probably nothing further from the truth. It’s very dangerous to assume that the agents are on your side. They are adept at interrogating suspects and typically have already concluded that a crime has taken place far in advance of the interview.
Remember, law enforcement officials are also allowed to lie to you, and they know how to make it feel as if talking to them is in your interest. It is not. Do not talk to them before consulting an attorney.
- You Received a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena
A grand jury subpoena is often delivered to someone suspected of either being involved in a crime or who may know about a crime. Although court appearance is mandatory if you are under subpoena, it is important to remember that you are still entitled to refuse to answer questions under the 5th Amendment. With an experienced attorney’s help, you can limit your exposure or, possibly, even convince a prosecutor that your testimony is unnecessary.
- You Received a Federal Target Letter
A Target Letter is sent by an Assistant U.S. Attorney notifying a person that they are likely to be prosecuted soon. These letters are usually sent to suspects that the government is not opposed to keeping out of custody until the case is resolved. These letters are not court orders, but ignoring them could result in a criminal complaint which could lead to an arrest. If you receive a target letter, it’s time to call an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
- You Were Stopped by Not Arrested
Sometimes a person is stopped and evidence is seized, but the person is not arrested. There are various reasons why this could happen but rarely is it because the government is not ready to file a case. Federal agents also sometimes allow state agencies to make an arrest first, and federal authorities take over the case after the local agency has opened it up. Again, call a federal criminal defense attorney if you’ve been stopped by police but not been arrested.
What Should I Do If I’m Under Federal Investigation?
Anyone under a federal investigation probably already has an inkling that the government suspects them of criminal activity. The warning signs should not be ignored. You should contact skilled federal defense attorney immediately if an agent shows up at your house. You can’t talk your way out of this. The same goes for anyone who receives a target letter or a grand jury subpoena. Waiting for legal help gives trained agents and prosecutors an advantage if they can question a suspect before they have legal representation.
It’s also important to remember that even if you’re not arrested during a traffic stop in which large quantities of drugs or cash are seized, it doesn’t mean an arrest isn’t pending.
Unfortunately, too many people who are approached by law enforcement, receive a subpoena, or are the subject of a massive seizure, allow themselves to be manipulated by investigators. Federal targets should not wait for an arrest before seeking legal assistance from an attorney.
As soon as you suspect that the government is investigating you, an experienced federal defense attorney should be retained.
3 Tips if You are Under Federal Investigation
Being investigated can be a very stressful experience, but there are things you can do to help your situation;
- Hire an Experienced Dallas Federal Lawyer. This should be someone who knows the ins and outs of the federal system and can help you navigate it. An experienced attorney will advise you on what to say and what not to say to investigators. You need an attorney who knows the law and can protect your rights. The attorneys at Varghese Summersett have extensive experience defending federal criminal cases.
- Remain Calm and Don’t Do Anything Drastic. If you try to obstruct justice or interfere with their investigation, you will only make things worse for yourself. Again contact an experienced federal attorney before you make any decisions that will worsen the situation.
- Be Honest with Your Lawyer. Your lawyer can’t help you if they don’t know what’s going on. Tell them everything, even if it’s embarrassing or incriminating. They need to know the whole story so they can build the best possible defense for you. Federal investigations can be overwhelming, but if you take the right steps, you can increase your chances of a favorable outcome. Hiring a qualified lawyer and cooperating with investigators are two of the best things you can do to protect yourself.
How quickly should you hire a Dallas federal criminal defense attorney? As soon as you suspect that federal officials are investigating you. Consider this analogy: if a medical doctor identifies an irregularity in your heartbeat, should you delay consulting a cardiologist?
Under Federal Investigation? Contact Varghese Summersett Today.
If you’ve been contacted by federal investigators, or suspect you’re under federal investigation, you need representation immediately. Call our office at 214-903-4300 for a free consultation with an experienced Dallas federal defense attorney.