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What to expect if you find yourself under federal investigation

Criminal investigators work out of various agencies of the federal government. Their work primarily involves obtaining evidence a prosecutor can use in an upcoming case.

If you anticipate an investigation, or if an investigator or officer has already appeared at your home or office, what can you expect?

Investigative agencies

Government agencies that employ investigators include the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the United States Secret Service; and Homeland Security Investigation. Officials from any of these agencies may engage the services of local law enforcement to assist in their work.

Keep in mind that under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, law enforcement officers must have probable cause to search your home, car or other property, in which case they must produce search warrants.

Types of evidence

If a prosecutor is building a case against you, he or she must have evidence. There are two kinds of evidence: direct and circumstantial. The officers who search your home might be able to provide direct evidence. However, the circumstantial evidence might only be a statement from someone who used second-hand information to form an impression about a particular event or activity.

Court hearing

If law enforcement arrests you and you face criminal charges, you will have an initial hearing before a judge who will determine if you should remain in jail or post bail pending trial. During the hearing, you can expect to learn more about the charges against you.

Defense strategy

The most favorable time to begin your defense strategy is during the investigation phase or, even better, when you first suspect an investigation is about to begin. Remember that you have rights. One of these is the right to refuse to answer any questions from investigators or law enforcement officers unless your attorney is present.

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