Federal Investigations

What is a Federal Investigation?

If you are the target of a federal investigation, you may not be aware of it for weeks or months at a time. You may receive a target letter from an Assistant U.S. Attorney or simply find federal agents at your door with a warrant to search your home and place you into custody.

In general, the first time many individuals realize that they are under investigation is when they are being subpoenaed to testify as a witness in front of a federal grand jury. If the grand jury decides to indict, you will face federal charges.

Expert Tip: A sample target letter looks like this*:

This letter is supplied to a witness scheduled to appear before the federal Grand Jury in order to provide helpful background information about the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury consists of from sixteen to twenty-three persons from the District of _____. It is their responsibility to inquire into federal crimes which may have been committed in this District.

As a Grand Jury witness you will be asked to testify and answer questions, and to produce records and documents. Only the members of the Grand Jury, attorneys for the United States and a stenographer are permitted in the Grand Jury room while you testify.

We advise you that the Grand Jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving, but not necessarily limited to _____. You are advised that the destruction or alteration of any document required to be produced before the grand jury constitutes serious violation of federal law, including but not limited to Obstruction of Justice.

You are advised that you are a target of the Grand Jury's investigation. You may refuse to answer any question if a truthful answer to the question would tend to incriminate you. Anything that you do or say may be used against you in a subsequent legal proceeding. If you have retained counsel, who represents you personally, the Grand Jury will permit you a reasonable opportunity to step outside the Grand Jury room and confer with counsel if you desire.

Why You Should You Retain Counsel

If you received a target letter, it is obvious why you should retain counsel. But in many cases, federal agents from any of a number of agencies (like the IRS or SEC) simply show up at your home or business, asking questions. If this happens, there is little room for doubt that you or those close to you are under federal investigation.

Important: If federal agents or police come to ask questions, even if these agents say you are not formally the target of a federal criminal investigation, you do not have to cooperate without the presence of your lawyer.

Examples of Federal Investigations

  • Child pornography. If an individual uses a file-sharing site, it is quite easy for federal agents to find the location of your home based on the IP address and obtain a search warrant for both your home and computer.
  • Solicitation of a minor. Many law enforcement stings star federal agents who pose as minors on the Internet in an attempt to persuade individuals to meet for sex.
  • White collar fraud. These cases are more likely than the others to involve lengthy investigations, including grand jury investigations; the first time many individuals find out about the federal investigation is when they receive a target letter or are approached by federal agents for questioning.

Retain Counsel for Representation As Early As Possible

In many federal cases, though not all, the target of a federal investigation has an opportunity to retain the services of a federal defense attorney before facing pre-trial indictment and arrest. In some cases, doing so can prevent indictment and arrest. That is why it is wise to retain counsel as early as possible.

About Roberts Law Group, PLLC

Patrick Roberts founded Roberts Law Group, PLLC in 2007 after working as a prosecutor. Since then, he has tried hundreds of criminal cases and resolved thousands with the help of his associates. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Patrick Roberts represents people charged with federal offenses throughout the U.S. Call 800-760-9071 or use our online form to request a consultation.

Learn more about federal defense attorney Patrick Roberts.

*See United States Attorneys' Criminal Resource Manuel, at 160; http://www.justice.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usam/index.html

North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
Result: Dismissed

An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.