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How Long Can The Federal Government Investigate You?

May 26, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys
How Long Can The Federal Government Investigate You?

The government has certain powers. Government officials are entrusted with basic responsibilities as defined by the constitution and enumerated over time via a body of law. These laws touch on many areas of American life. People must obey laws when they drive, operate a business, have children, run a business and even get dressed. If people are not obeying such laws according to the federal government, they can face an investigation of the actions. The possibility of a formal investigation one that makes many people shudder. An investigation of any kind may disrupt the person’s life and make it hard for them to do things such as go to work and earning a living. People facing government investigations in their private or business lives may feel a huge sense of frustration and despair. The founding father and a body of law over time have recognized this fact. As a result, they have set up certain safe guards.

The Statue of Limitations

A statue of limitations is a specific set of laws that are designed to avoid the possibility of a prolonged investigation. The law recognizes that officials cannot spend lots of public money and time merely in an attempt to prove a case that may not even exist. This is why these limits have been placed on federal power. The law also recognizes that federal officials may have access to resources that private individuals may lack. Statues want all publicly funded resources directed where they will do most good. A single prosecutor is not allowed to pursue possible wrong doing against an individual they dislike to the exclusion of all else.

Certain violations have a time limit. Most federal crimes need to be brought in front of a grand jury within five years. This five year period means when the crime was committed not when possible evidence of it was discovered. A grand jury must be able to return an indictment against the defendant in five years.

While this period applies to most federal crimes, people should be aware there are certain exceptions that have a longer time frame. For example, the crime of art theft carries a twenty year statue of limitations. People accused of arson must be charged within ten years. Someone who is being accused of bank fraud will need to be indicted within ten years as well. The same applies to any form federal immigration crimes such as marriage fraud. Crimes that are discovered after these time frames cannot be prosecuted. People who kidnap or sexually abuse children must be charged with that crime within ten years or within the child’s lifetime.

No Time Limits

It is true that federal government faces certain restrictions when investigating people. However, it is also true that certain crimes do not fall under the statue of limitations laws. For example,someone who commits a capital crime, or a crime in which they may be eligible for the death penalty if caught, can be prosecuted at any point. The same is true for those who are charged with terrorism.

These limits may also not apply under certain other circumstances. For example, if government officials can provide evidence that the person knew they were facing the possibility of federal investigation but did not agree to come forward to clear their name than such laws may not apply to them. Someone who deliberately flees to another country seeking a refuge against such charges can still be prosecuted even if time runs out at home.

People who are engaged in any form of active criminal activity that may be ongoing such as a conspiracy to extort money from local businesses are also not covered under these laws. Actively engaging in crime right now means that the person may face the possibility of a government investigation into their affairs at any time. Given the complexities of the reach of the law and the statutes that may or may not apply, seeking legal counsel is always the best course of action under these circumstances. A lawyer can help clarify what specific laws apply to the person accused. They can also remind prosecutors of such time frames and make sure they are followed to the letter.



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