About Federal Criminal Investigations
Investigation is the first step in the federal criminal justice process. The opening of a federal investigation, into any criminal offense, is an indication that a federal agency has information, a whistleblower, or a tip-off that an offense was committed. Very few federal investigations, particularly in today’s world of digital information, are entirely baseless.
If you become aware of a federal investigation involving your business, employer, professional practice, or you as an individual, it is in your best interest to speak with a federal defense lawyer.
Involvement of Federal Agencies in an Investigation
There are federal investigative agencies to look into every type and category of federal crime. This includes investigations into:
- White-collar crimes
- Computer and cyber crimes
- Tax evasion
- Alcohol and drug offenses
- Racketeering and corrupt organizations
- Healthcare fraud and abuse
- Hate crimes, and
While certain agencies focus on particular areas of federal crime and criminal offenses, other agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, handle a very wide range of offenses. As well, it is a common occurrence for federal agencies to partner on an investigation where there is overlapping interest in the suspected offense. As a federal investigation progresses, federal prosecutors are likely to become directly involved in the collection of evidence and determination of federal charges.
Agencies Involved in Federal Investigations
These agencies are responsible for some of the high-profile and serious investigations in the United States.
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives: This agency is part of the Department of Justice and responsible for investigative actions involving the illegal use and trafficking of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives. International and interstate trafficking both fall within this agency’s purview.
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): The DEA handles a large number of cases in the United States focused on the production, manufacture, distribution, and trafficking of unlawful controlled substances. The primary interest of the DEA is trafficking of controlled substances across state lines or across international borders.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): A subset of the Office of the Inspector General, the EPA is strictly focused on crimes and civil lawsuits involving harm to the environment or breaking federal regulations that cover the environment.
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI): The broadest federal investigative agency is the FBI. Task forces and divisions within the FBI handles investigations involving white-collar crimes, healthcare fraud, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and more. The FBI is also tasked with intelligence-based investigation within the United States.
- U.S. Marshal Service: The oldest federal law enforcement agency in the United States, the U.S. marshals are responsible for fugitive investigation and operations, acting on warrants for arrest and running special operations as a tactical division of law enforcement for the federal government.
Your Role in a Federal Investigation
Are you the target of a federal investigation? It might be difficult to determine why a federal investigator takes an interest in a company or individual. While you shouldn’t rule out the possibility that you are the target of the investigation, there are other reasons a federal investigator requests an interview or information. You could be the:
- Target of an investigation,
- Subject of an investigation, or
- Witness in an investigation.
What Do If Do If I am The Target of an Investigation?
The target of a federal investigation is the primary suspect. The federal investigator has reason to believe this person or entity committed a crime and is actively looking to build a criminal case. The investigation will involve the collection of evidence against this particular individual and
A federal investigator isn’t required to tell you that you are the target of an investigation. Yet, the nature of an investigation, such as the issuance of a warrant or request to search your property, will often reveal that you are the target of the investigation. You don’t have an obligation to provide information, documentation, or a statement to a federal officer, unless a warrant is issued.
What Do I Do as the Subject or Witness of an Investigation?
- Subject of an Investigation. The subject of an investigation is not the primary focus or person of interest to federal agents. However, the investigators or federal prosecutor still has reason to believe that a subject participated in an offense. If enough evidence is collected, during the pursuit of a case against the target of the investigation, you could be charged with a federal crime.
- Witnesses. Witnesses in a federal investigation aren’t suspected of wrongdoing. Rather, if you are a witness in the investigation, the federal agents or prosecutors believe that you have relevant information to the case. While it could be beneficial to cooperator with federal investigators as a witness, you should speak with a federal defense lawyer before agreeing to an interview or search of your property.
It is your right to have an attorney present during questioning.
Regardless of why the FBI or other federal agency would like to meet with you for questioning you should never consent to questioning without your attorney present.
How to Respond to a Federal Investigation?
Whether you are guilty or innocent of a federal crime, it is important to have a strategic response to any federal investigation.
This response should begin with a phone call to a federal defense lawyer barred in your state and admitted to practice in the federal court. Not sure how to find a federal criminal lawyer?