The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the nation’s top federal law enforcement agency. It investigates a broad range of federal white-collar crimes, and it works alongside the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey to prosecute both individuals and companies. If you have been contacted by the FBI, you need to be very careful about your next steps, and you should discuss your situation with a New Jersey white-collar crime lawyer promptly.
7 Steps to Take When You Get Contacted By the FBI
Here is an overview of what you should do if you have been contacted by the FBI in New Jersey:
1. Speak with a Lawyer Who Handles Federal White-Collar Cases
When facing an FBI investigation, it is important to promptly engage a lawyer with experience representing clients in high-stakes federal white-collar matters. Federal and state cases are very different, and you need a lawyer who has experience protecting clients in your situation. When you hire a New Jersey white-collar crime lawyer to handle your investigation, your lawyer will deal with the FBI on your behalf, and your lawyer will work to steer the investigation toward a favorable resolution that avoids criminal charges.
2. Let the FBI Know that You Have a Lawyer
If FBI agents contact them again, you should let them know that you have a lawyer. If they continue to ask you questions, you should avoid answering and state that you are exercising your right to counsel. Once they leave, you should contact your lawyer promptly.
What if the FBI comes back with a search warrant? In this situation, you may not have a choice but to let them into your home or office. You should call your lawyer while the agents are there, and you should try to observe as much of the search as possible.
3. Avoid Voluntarily Sharing Any Information with the FBI
Generally, when facing an FBI investigation, you should avoid voluntarily sharing any information with the FBI—unless advised otherwise by your lawyer. You do not have to answer any questions, and unless agents have a warrant, you do not have to provide them with any records or files. Your lawyer can help you make an informed decision about what information (if any) to share with the FBI as a strategic step toward resolving the investigation without a referral to the DOJ.
4. Figure Out What the FBI is Investigating and Why
When you are the target of an FBI investigation (or your company is the target of an FBI investigation), you need to figure out why. You need to discern what triggered the investigation, and you need to identify the specific allegations at issue.
These are all critical facts for executing a strategic defense. Until you know why the FBI is investigating, you won’t be able to determine what defenses you have available. As a result, not only will you be unable to protect yourself, but you could also end up unnecessarily disclosing information while “defending” against allegations that aren’t at issue.
5. Evaluate Your Defense Options
Once you figure out why the FBI is investigating, then you can work with your New Jersey white-collar crime lawyer to evaluate your defense options. This will involve examining the facts at hand and gaining a clear understanding of what (if anything) the FBI will be able to find to use against you. Crucially, this includes not only information that the FBI may be able to obtain from you but that it may be able to obtain from alleged co-conspirators, informants, whistleblowers and other third parties as well.
6. Work with Your Lawyer to Resolve the Investigation Without Charges
In many cases, the best-case outcome when facing an FBI investigation is to resolve the investigation without charges. Ideally, this will involve convincing the investigating agents that there are no charges to pursue. However, if it appears likely that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will be able to substantiate charges at trial, then it may be in your best interests to consult with your lawyer about negotiating a settlement or plea.
7. Prepare for an Indictment if Necessary
Depending on the current status of the FBI’s investigation, charges may already be imminent. In federal cases, the U.S. Attorney’s Office must impanel a grand jury to secure an indictment and move forward with prosecution. If a grand jury subpoena is on the horizon, you will need to begin working with your lawyer immediately to prepare for the next steps in your case.
What Not To Do When Facing an FBI Investigation
While there are several steps you need to take when facing an FBI investigation, there are just as many mistakes you need to avoid (if not more). Some examples of what not to do when facing an FBI investigation include:
- Do not ignore the investigation. If the FBI is investigating you or your company, the investigation is not simply going to go away. To protect yourself, you need to address the investigation head-on.
- Do not cooperate unless advised otherwise by your lawyer. While cooperating with the FBI might seem like the best approach, it can be extremely risky. Without a deal in place, any information you share can be used against you.
- Do not wait to seek legal representation. When facing an FBI investigation, your goal should be to resolve the investigation without an indictment. This requires experienced legal representation, and hiring an experienced New Jersey white-collar crime lawyer promptly will give you the best chance to avoid serious federal charges.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation with a New Jersey White-Collar Crime Lawyer
If you have been contacted by the FBI in New Jersey, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information. To speak with a New Jersey white-collar crime lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. as soon as possible, call 877-435-6371 or contact us confidentially online now.