For many suspects, the formal filing of criminal charges in court is not the first indication that something is amiss. Law enforcement investigators will often attempt to contact and interview a suspect before sending the case to a prosecutor for review. This is particularly true in white collar cases—such as real estate, corporate malfeasance, and other types of fraud—which rely heavily on extensive documentation, and need witness statements to clarify and corroborate the volumes of written evidence. This investigatory phase can last weeks or even months.
White collar crimes pursued by federal authorities can have particularly extensive investigations. Many federal agencies may be involved including the Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, and more. Investigators for these agencies have substantial funding and their goal is to hand over solid evidence to the U.S. Attorney’s Office before charges are ever filed.
While the case is pending, many suspects feel that they do not need the advice of an attorney, and can resolve the case by presenting their sides of the story to investigators. This can do serious and irreversible damage to the suspect’s ability to defend himself at trial.
Read on to learn more about what to do while an investigation is pending, and how an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can protect your constitutional rights before charges are ever filed.
An Attorney Can Prevent a Suspect From Making Incriminating Statements
The Fifth Amendment protects all suspects from being forced to make incriminating statements against themselves to law enforcement, prosecutors, or other government workers. It is easy to recognize the danger of incriminating statements when under arrest or in an interrogation room. But while an investigation is pending, conversations are more casual, and it is easy to lose sight of which statements will incriminate you and which will clear your name. Investigators will often visit a suspect at home or work. There is usually a casual tone to the conversation. Investigators may claim they just need a little help to “clear up the matter,” or that they just want “your side of the story.” All these factors make suspects more likely to accidentally reveal information that can inadvertently incriminate them.
The reality is that investigators will say anything to get the information they want. While they may seem to care about protecting you and your best interests, they are actually seeking any proof that you (or others) were involved in any criminal activities. Even if they claim you are not the one under investigation, you should always consider yourself to be under investigation if agents show up at your door, call you in for an interview, or otherwise request information from you. Never trust what agents say and instead call an attorney and inform them of everything that has happened so far.
A defense attorney will work with a suspect during law enforcement investigations to determine which—if any—information to disclose. Some information can help resolve an investigation more quickly. Other information can make it much harder to defend a client at trial. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can accurately distinguish between the two. The earlier in the investigation you hire an attorney, the sooner the attorney can begin protecting you—and you are less likely to accidentally reveal incriminating information.
An Attorney Can Work With Investigators to Reduce the Time and Expense of Litigation
As previously discussed, some statements can actually help resolve a law enforcement investigation more quickly. An attorney can not only identify the information that you should reveal, but can also determine the strategy that will achieve the best outcome for you. In some cases, this may involve taking the case to trial and forcing the prosecutor to prove the case to a jury. In other cases it might be faster and more cost-efficient to simply explain the client’s side of the story to investigators to reduce the charges—and in rare cases, this can cause law enforcement to close an investigation altogether.
Having the representation of an experienced white collar crime defense attorney as early as possible in the investigative process can ensure your rights are protected even prior to any arrest or charges. It is never too early to discuss a possible criminal case with an attorney.
The Right Representation for Your Criminal Defense
Sound legal advice can mitigate the collateral damage of a criminal investigation. Contact Attorney Brian J. Zeiger at (215) 546-0340 today to schedule your consultation. Attorney Brian Zeiger is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has successfully protected client’s rights throughout many types of criminal investigations. Now let him help you.