Finding out you are the target of a federal criminal investigation is terrifying. After all, only 2% of federal defendants even make it to trial, and most who do are found guilty. The federal government has resources and time on its side, and they typically don’t move in until they’ve got very strong cases.

Your only asset is that you usually know when you’re under investigation thanks to target letters, which usually tell you about the alleged crime, your constitutional rights, and important deadlines that are relevant to your case. You get some time to prepare, unlike the targets of state-level criminal cases who might not be aware they are under investigation until the police literally show up at their home.

It’s vital that you don’t make a bad situation worse at any point in the process. Here are four mistakes clients sometimes make. 

#1) Speaking to anyone other than your attorney.

You have to assert your 5th amendment rights, and then you have to shut your mouth. Don’t talk to investigators without your attorney present.

Many savvy white collar defendants are aware of this, but forget the dangers inherent in talking to anyone else, even their spouses. Try to convince your friend or your mom that you’re innocent, and they can be subpoena’d to discuss every word you said in federal court.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t know what could or could not be spun up into incriminating evidence. You don’t know exactly what the AUSA’s case is going to be, which means you can dig your own grave whenever you say anything at all.

If well-meaning loved ones ask about your case, just say: “I’ve done nothing wrong. My attorney’s working hard on this, and I’m sure we’ll bring it to a favorable resolution. That’s really all I can say about it right now for your own protection.”

#2) Lying to law enforcement.

Lying to the FBI is in and of itself a federal crime. If you do it and you’re caught you can be charged and put away on that charge alone, without the government needing to make the greater white collar crime case against you.

Instead, again, assert your 5th amendment rights and your right to an attorney if you find yourself alone with law enforcement at any point. 

#3) Lying to your attorney, or withholding evidence from them.

Your attorney can only help you if they know exactly what is going on. You have to be honest with them. Attorney-client privilege means that doing this is perfectly safe. In addition, a federal criminal defense attorney isn’t here to judge you. We can’t lie for you, but we don’t have to.

Our question is whether or not the government can prove you committed a crime and what we can do about it. Your factual guilt or innocence is almost immaterial. We are bound to represent our clients and don’t go into defense law unless we believe in zealously doing just that.

#4) Altering, destroying, or hiding evidence.

Under 18 U.S. Code § 1519 anyone who “knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

In other words, you only stand to make your situation worse if you start tampering with the evidence.

Instead, turn all the evidence you know about over to your lawyer so your attorney can review it. 

#5) Failing to obtain a federal criminal lawyer.

When you’re accused of a federal white collar crime reaching out to just any criminal lawyer won’t do. You want someone with deep experience in federal court, someone who knows how to negotiate with federal prosecutors, and someone who understands how these cases work.

In trouble? We can help. Reach out to Koch Law today.

See also:

How to Resolve a Federal Criminal Case Before Charges Are Filed

What is a Target Letter?

Should You Go to Court if Accused of a White Collar Crime?