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The Benefits of Retaining Counsel Early in a Federal Criminal Investigation

The Benefits of Retaining Counsel Early in a Federal Criminal Investigation

When you find yourself the subject or target of a federal criminal investigation, it is crucial to retain experienced criminal defense counsel as early in the process as possible. There are several key benefits to doing so:

Counsel Can Guide You Through the Investigative Process

The federal criminal justice system is extremely complex, with many intricacies and nuances that are unfamiliar to laypeople. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney has the expertise to guide you through the various stages of the investigation, explain the process, advise you of your rights, and develop an appropriate defense strategy[1].

Without competent representation, you may inadvertently say or do something to damage your case or violate your constitutional rights. As the Supreme Court has noted, “Even the intelligent and educated layman may have small and sometimes no skill in the science of law” [2].

Counsel Can Engage and Negotiate with Investigators

Your attorney can contact federal agents and prosecutors to open lines of communication and negotiation early on. This allows counsel to argue against charges being filed, advocate for you, clarify misunderstandings, or potentially resolve the case pre-indictment.

As one legal commentator notes, “In many white collar cases…retaining counsel early allows critical negotiating leverage that evaporates once charges are filed” [3]. This leverage stems from avoiding indictment itself, which leads to loss of reputation, career damage, and extended litigation.

Counsel Can Shape the Investigation’s Scope and Direction

By engaging early, counsel may be able to impact the trajectory of the investigation by presenting facts favorable to you, proposing alternatives theories, and even identifying other potential suspects[4].

In some cases, this advocacy can discourage the prosecution from pursuing charges altogether or narrow the scope of inquiry. According to one study, pre-charge advocacy results in non-prosecution or reduced charges approximately 25% of the time[5].

Early Retention Maximizes the Attorney-Client Privilege

The attorney-client privilege protects confidential communications between attorney and client made for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. However, the privilege only extends to communications made after the attorney-client relationship has been established.

Thus, by retaining counsel at the first indication of a federal investigation, you ensure that all subsequent communications pertaining to the investigation fall under the umbrella of privilege and are shielded from compelled disclosure.

Counsel Can Argue Against Pre-Indictment Deprivations

In some cases, prosecutors will seek to impose substantial hardships on investigation targets prior to any charges being filed.

Your attorney can challenge things like asset freezes, account seizures, onerous subpoenas, and other deprivations in an effort to oppose prosecutorial overreach and have such measures revoked or limited by a judge.

Early Retention May Discourage Obstruction Charges

If prosecutors believe you have retained counsel specifically to hide ongoing criminal misconduct or obstruct justice, it may lead them to pursue additional charges for obstruction of justice, conspiracy, or criminal enterprise.

By contrast, prompt retention of counsel early in an investigation powerfully demonstrates responsible behavior inconsistent with obstruction allegations. It shows you have nothing to hide and are simply seeking expert guidance in responding to investigative inquiries.

In sum, retaining experienced criminal counsel at the very outset of a federal investigation provides immense strategic value in shaping the course of the inquiry to your benefit. It maximizes the chance of avoiding charges altogether or achieving pre-indictment resolution. Failing that, early retention better positions the defense for achieving the most favorable outcome possible. When your freedom may be at stake, the benefits of early retention simply cannot be overstated.

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