26 Nov 23

What should you do if approached by federal law enforcement?

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Last Updated on: 5th December 2023, 02:11 pm

What Should You Do If Approached By Federal Law Enforcement?

Record Interactions Carefully

If federal agents arrive at your home or workplace, you have the right to record video and audio of the encounter, as long as you do not obstruct their activities. This creates an objective record of what transpired. Avoid physical resistance or interference.

When recording, clearly state that you do not consent to a search and that you wish to contact your attorney. Calmly repeat these invocations as needed.

If you are in public, you can record audio openly. Video recording may require consent, depending on your state’s laws. Know your local recording laws.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Avoid casual conversations with federal agents. Do not feel pressured to talk “just to be cooperative.” Anything you say can potentially be used against you.

If they ask you questions, politely decline to answer and re-assert your right to counsel. Do not lie or provide false documents to mislead agents, which can constitute a criminal offense.

Avoid confrontational body language like pointing fingers or raising your voice. Be firm but calm. Ask clarifying questions if agents make ambiguous statements about the purpose of their contact.

Get Legal Help Immediately

Contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after any encounter with federal authorities. Do not wait to get legal advice. An experienced attorney can help protect your rights.

Discuss the details of the interaction and any information the agents provided about an investigation. Your lawyer can assess your risks and liabilities. Follow their guidance about whether to comply with further investigative requests.

If you are arrested, invoke your 5th Amendment right to remain silent and 6th Amendment right to counsel. Do not make any statements to authorities without your lawyer present. Hire counsel promptly.

Understand Common Federal Investigations

Some types of federal investigations you may get caught up in include:

  • White collar crime probes into areas like tax fraud, embezzlement, public corruption, etc.
  • Drug enforcement operations targeting distribution and trafficking.
  • National security and terrorism investigations.
  • Immigration-related cases handled by agencies like ICE.
  • Federal firearms violations regarding licensing and sales.

The applicable laws and your rights/liabilities vary across these different types of probes. Having a lawyer who understands the nuances is critical.

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Get Your Affairs in Order

If it becomes clear you are the target of an ongoing federal investigation, take proactive steps to get your personal and financial affairs in order in case of an indictment.

  • Gather important documents, records, and contact information so your attorney can access what’s needed.
  • Make arrangements for childcare or eldercare if needed.
  • Notify your employer and clients of the situation.
  • Seek counseling or support if feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
  • Follow your lawyer’s advice about travel, finances, business dealings, and other relevant matters.