As a best Federal criminal defense lawyer, I am often asked – including recently – on what to do when contacted by the Feds – including Federal Agents or Federal prosecutors. This is an important question. All too often defendants in Federal criminal prosecutions have said or done things, prior to the filing of a Federal criminal Complaint or Indictment, that have provided the basis in substantial part for the government to proceed with a case against them and/or to ultimately prevail against them at a Federal trial. Federal agents are not always simply the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). By way of example only, they may work for HHS (Health and Human Services), or the Treasury Department, or the OIG, or the Postal Service. Typically, all such Federal agents like to employ the element of surprise. This frequently involves a contact or stop by when it is least expected, i.e., when one is coming out of work late at night, or when one is getting ready for work early in the morning or even prior to that time, or when one is entering or exiting their vehicle, etc. This approach is anxiety producing, and off-putting. Moreover, this approach is often accompanied or carried out with an air of “we only have a few questions,” or “we’re just looking into,” or “we can help you” or “you can help us.” Of course, many people would respond to that approach positively, particularly if they do not believe, or do not believe that those around them, have engaged in any wrongdoing let alone criminal conduct. Naturally, one’s response may be to err on the side of “resolving this” and getting to “tell my side of the story.” Don’t do it. The Agents are not your friends. The Agents are not trying to help you. The Agents may elicit statements from you that, although may be an honest attempt at the truth, may actually be unintentionally wrong, in whole or part. Perhaps more importantly, even if completely accurate, the facts provided may support, provide the basis for, or provide corroboration for the bringing of a federal charge(s). Silence in response to the approach of a government Agent cannot be used to establish guilt. It proves nothing and is evidence of nothing. Nor can the request to have counsel present during any questioning be later used to establish guilt. Indeed, when one invokes his/her absolute right to counsel, the Agent is required to (but does not always do so) stop the questioning. In short, at an absolute minimum, one should refrain from answering any questions from a Federal agent without first at least reaching out to a lawyer who is well-versed in representing Federal criminal defendants. In a future post or posts, we will address what to do/not to do beyond simply remaining silent and seeking the input of qualified Federal counsel.
Leonard Trial Lawyers
October 17, 2023