Every federal agency, from the Department of Justice to the IRS, contacts people for a variety of reasons, most through the normal course of operations. However, when the initial communication is made by a Federal Agent there is reason for concern and you should immediately seek legal representation. Federal Agents include but are not limited to the following: FBI, DEA, ATF, Coast Guard, Postal Service Investigator, Homeland Security, IRS, and ICE. There are three primary reasons why a Federal Agent will contact you.
You are a Potential Witness
Under this scenario, the Federal Agent might say, “We just want a statement or an interview. No big deal.” Unfortunately, many people accept that statement at face value, especially if they believe they have done nothing wrong. They meet with the Federal Agent without an attorney and provide information that may then be used to indict them.
Instead, you should contact an experienced federal attorney before making any statement to protect your rights and interests. Your lawyer can:
- Serve as a buffer between you and the agents. Your lawyer will ask and answer questions on your behalf and those answers cannot be used against you in any way.
- Request evidence. The lawyer can request the evidence in the case and determine any risks you face under the circumstances presented.
- Advise whether or not it is in your best interest to make a statement. In many situations, you should not make a statement since any decision or action you’ve made may be interpreted as aiding in the criminal act of the person or company being investigated. This “conspiracy” scenario is common in federal criminal investigations and you need an expert federal attorney to guide you through the process or recommend against cooperation.
You are the Target of An Investigation or the Subject of an Investigation
In these two scenarios, the government has evidence that you have committed a crime and are building a case against you or strengthening an existing case. Rather than indicting you immediately, a Federal Agent may contact you and offer to “hear your side of the story.” You will want to take advantage of this situation but only with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney by your side. In this situation your attorney will:
- Serve as a buffer between you and the Federal Agent. Your lawyer can speak on your behalf but nothing that is said can be used against you.
- Request and examine the evidence against you. The attorney will usually receive redacted information about the case and will assess your risks and opportunities based on the information.
- Prepare and present a Proffer Letter. A proffer letter is a written document that details your illegal or incriminating actions. It allows subjects and targets of investigation to freely speak with the US attorney’s office and or Federal Agents because, under the vast majority of circumstances, the statements made in the proffer letter will not be used against them. When you are contacted by a Federal Agent rather than indicted directly, their goal is to use your testimony to support the prosecution of someone higher up in the organization, and a well-structured proffer letter allows you to participate in this process while protecting yourself from indictment.
Legal Representation is Key
Whenever a Federal Agent contacts you, contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately to protect your rights and interests. Whether serving as a witness or facing an investigation, an expert lawyer will help you achieve the best possible outcome under your circumstances.