Learning that you’re under investigation by the federal government can be terrifying. Most of our clients in white collar investigations have questions. Here, we try to answer them.
On this page, we try to give you as much information as we can about how being investigated by the federal government works. The focus is on white collar investigations, because that's the bulk of our experience, but this information should be useful if you are involved in any kind of federal government investigation.
Another big question people have is whether they should talk to law enforcement. The video below answers that question.
People learn that they are under investigation in a white collar case in one of five ways.
First, a federal agent tries to talk to you. Sometimes, an agent will knock on your door. It may be someone from the F.B.I., the Secret Service, or one of any number of other federal law enforcement agencies. If you aren’t home the agent may leave a card with his or her phone number on it, asking that you call. Federal employees are sometimes asked to come to their agency’s Office of Inspector General while at work for an interview.
Second, you may get a letter from an Assistant United States Attorney telling you that you are the target of a federal investigation – this is called a “target letter.”
Third, you may get a subpoena for documents to the grand jury. This is especially common in white-collar cases. For more information on how to respond to a subpoena, please see our information about subpoena response representation.
Fourth, federal agents may come to your house with a search warrant. If they come, they will likely come early in the morning. This is the least pleasant way to learn that you are under investigation.
Fifth, you may hear about an investigation from friends, or from someone you know from work or a prior business relationship. You will want to learn more from those around you. The problem is, what you ask can make it’s way back to the AUSA or agents, and it can give them a window into your thoughts. This can turn into powerful government evidence to a jury.
Finally, if you think you may be under investigation, please watch the video below about what not to do when you're under investigation. It could head off a very bad situation.