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Understanding What to Do When Federal Investigators Knock

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin criminal defense attorney, Wisconsin defense lawyer, federal crimesOne of the most stressful things that can happen to any business owner is to have a set of federal investigators knock on the door to conduct an investigation into the company. This can come in a couple of forms. Sometimes, it will be a literal knock, investigators showing up without warning to conduct an interview. Other times, the notice of an investigation will come in the form of a subpoena asking for documents from the company, or even just a letter informing the business owner that they or their company is being targeted by investigators.

First Steps

As the owner of the company being targeted by federal investigators, the most important thing to do is to stay calm and stay polite. Panic will not help the situation, and investigators may even take nerves as a sign that they are on the right track. Rudeness can also be problematic since that makes it more difficult to work with the investigation going forward if that turns out to be the best strategy.

The next step is to follow the company policy as far as responding to federal investigations. This policy should be worked out in advance with an attorney, put down in writing, and distributed to company employees. One of the key pieces of this policy should be to funnel the investigators into contacting a specific person who has been trained in dealing with this contingency. They should know what information to look for, such as the names of the agents, the agency overseeing the investigation, and the substance of the investigation. The person in charge of responding to federal investigations should also know to what extent they can refuse to answer questions and at what point they should start directing the agents to the company's counsel. This is particularly important because inappropriate responses to federal investigations can lead to charges of obstruction of justice.

Avoiding Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of justice charges are not as easy to fall into as police procedural shows on TV would have you believe, but they are a serious concern when dealing with federal investigations. Just look at Martha Stewart. Her only convictions were for obstruction of justice, not any of the underlying stock trading.

Obstruction of justice is not a single charge, but is actually a web of different federal statutes that lay out what people are not allowed to do in response to a federal investigation. Many of them are obvious, such as bribery, but others are more surprising. There are even some circumstances in which merely alerting another person to the investigation is enough to trigger obstruction of justice.

Federal investigations can be stressful and unsettling. Whether you are currently the target of one or want help putting a plan in place before it becomes necessary, contact an experienced Milwaukee white collar defense attorney today.
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