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What to Know When Hiring a Lawyer for a Federal Crime


When should you hire a criminal defense lawyer? As soon as you suspect that the federal government is looking into you.

The federal criminal court system is powerful, vast, and dangerous for numerous reasons. Nobody wants to be the target of a detailed-oriented federal agent, a trained officer, or an organized prosecutor. So if you get an inkling that you are a subject of a federal investigation, consult an experienced lawyer to discuss your legal options.

Unlike state-level cases, the investigation and prosecution process of federal cases is a lot different and complicated. This article talks about federal criminal investigations and what to know when hiring a lawyer for a federal crime.

Federal Criminal Investigations

Reactive federal cases pose an immediate public threat, so they require the quickest arrest possible. For instance, bank robberies that involve violent conduct place an urgent duty upon the law to react, arrest, or stop perpetrators.

Investigative federal cases, on the other hand, form the bulk of most federal cases and involve an extensive investigation. For instance, a Medicaid fraud investigation under 18 USC 1035 will see investigators concentrate more on building the details of the case than focusing on its rapidity.

Federal crimes often involve lengthy pre-arrest investigations. However, just because you do not get arrested immediately does not mean that you should not seek legal help.

Don't Wait to Hire a Lawyer

Don't wait for things to get somber, such as your indictment, to start looking for a lawyer. Federal cases often take months or even years to investigate and make arrests. However, no matter the stage of your case at the time you learn that you are under investigation, it's never too early to hire a lawyer.

Because federal criminal investigations can take a long time before the government files charges, you need to retain legal counsel early to avoid him or her from playing catch up, and to improve your chances of winning.

Below are three instances that should give you a heads up to get an attorney because the federal government might be building a case against you:

  • Federal Knock and Talk: Here, federal agents come to you asking to talk, or leave a card for you to call them. They usually use phrases like "eliminating you as a suspect" or "clarifying some matters." It's a bad idea to talk to them without a lawyer present or first consulting one.
  • Federal Grand Jury Subpoena: Agents send out subpoenas to persons suspected to have knowledge of a crime or be involved in one. Although attendance is mandatory, you can choose not to answer questions under the 5th amendment. A lawyer can help limit your exposure or even convince a prosecutor that testifying is not necessary.
  • The Federal Target Letter: It notifies you of your likely prosecution soon.
  • A Delayed Federal Arrest: Occurs when law enforcement stops a person and seize evidence in their possession without their subsequent arrest. It often signifies that the federal government is building a more extensive case involving the individual.

What You Should Do

The consequences of the federal investigative process, as well as the enterprise target model, make it possible for persons targeted for indictment and prosecution to have an idea of their suspect status in a criminal investigation. Never ignore the warning signs of an ongoing investigation concerning you, and never think you can talk your way out of trouble.

  • Get the right type of lawyer. It would be best if you searched for a qualified lawyer who practices or specializes in the specific law area that applies to your case.
  • Ensure your attorney is qualified and experienced to handle the type of charges leveled against you at the federal level. The last thing you want is an attorney who learns on the go and is inexperienced in the nature and magnitude of your case.
  • Hire a lawyer who can communicate effectively. As your most trusted resource in your case, your lawyer needs to communicate well with you and also throughout the proceedings, even if it means representing you in court.
  • Generally speaking, federal criminal defense lawyers charge their fees according to the level of complexity of a case. Many do not have a flat fee and prefer to charge by the number of hours they spend working on your case. However, most lawyers offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case, options, and payment.
  • Go with your gut. After a federal indictment, a lawyer becomes one of the essential people in your life. Your freedom, future, and family's wellbeing are all in their hands. Therefore, if you feel that a lawyer is not going to represent you well, give your case attention, or you do not like him or her, then look for someone else.

The Bottom Line

When you find out that the federal government is targeting you in a criminal investigation, it is best to hire a federal criminal defense lawyer immediately. Never be lulled into a false sense of confidence that your case will go away if you cooperate. An experienced lawyer protects you from criminal prosecution or comes to a suitable resolution on your behalf. 

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