If you are under investigation or charged with a crime, you must typically deal with state law enforcement. However, if you have been accused of a federal crime – such as fraud, Internet sex offenses, drug trafficking or certain white collar crimes – you may face a federal investigation.
You should take a federal investigation very seriously as you may be in much more trouble than if you were under investigation for state crimes. Federal crimes tend to carry harsher penalties than state crimes and, if convicted, you will be sent to federal prison. Therefore, if you receive a target letter from the FBI, US Immigration or any other federal agency, it is important to contact a Tampa, FL criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Not every attorney is equipped to handle federal criminal cases. Many criminal defense attorneys specialize in state crimes exclusively and do not represent clients facing federal criminal charges. Moreover, attorneys must have special permission from the Bar Association to represent clients in federal court.
Ben Stechschulte is a former prosecutor and one of only two percent of Florida attorneys who has earned board certification in criminal trial law. He has the experience to represent you in your federal criminal case and can work with you from the moment you receive a letter from the federal government.
What to Do If You Receive a Letter from a Federal Agency
If you receive a letter from a federal agency or any letter indicating that the government would like to speak with you, you should contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney immediately. Your attorney can help you to understand the meaning of the letter and whether you are a target of a federal investigation or are simply the subject of a federal investigation.
A “target” letter, as they are sometimes called, can indicate that you are the target of a federal investigation. This means that the government believes they have substantial evidence that you committed a crime. The investigation regarding whether any actual criminal wrongdoing has occurred can sometimes take years and during this time, anything you say or do can be used against you. Typically, if you receive a target letter from the federal government, the federal investigation will ultimately culminate in you being indicted for federal crimes by a grand jury.
A subject letter, on the other hand, indicates that the federal government wants information from you and may call you to testify before a grand jury. A subject letter does not mean that you are likely to be indicted or charged with a federal crime. However, you should still consult a Tampa Bay area criminal defense lawyer immediately as anything you say in a federal investigation can be used to build a case against you.
Steps to Take After Receiving a Letter from a Federal Agency
When you receive a letter from a federal agency, you should follow the steps below:
- Contact a criminal defense lawyer. Contact a Tampa criminal defense lawyer, such as Ben Stechschulte, who specializes in federal criminal cases. Be sure to keep the letter and any communications with the federal agency. You should not respond on your own to the letter or make any contact with the federal agency until you have spoken with your attorney.
- Gather relevant information. Before meeting with your lawyer, gather any relevant information that could be pertinent to the investigation. Make a list of names, dates, places and other information related to the investigation and be ready to provide information to your attorney and ask any questions that you may have about the implications of the federal letter.
- Formulate a plan with the help of your criminal defense attorney. Once you have formally retained the services of an attorney, your lawyer will guide you in every step of dealing with the federal government. Your attorney will also be present every time you speak with anyone connected with or involved in the investigation to help ensure that your rights are protected and that you do not inadvertently do anything that provides the federal government with evidence to use against you.
Getting Legal Help from a Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer
While all criminal charges can have a serious impact on your future, few are as serious as federal criminal charges. The sooner you contact a lawyer when you receive a letter from the federal government, the better your chances of avoiding an indictment, conviction or long term of incarceration in a federal prison. Contact Stechschulte Nell today for more information on how we can help.