5 Things You Shouldn’t Do If You’re Under Federal Investigation

5 Things You Shouldn’t Do If You’re Under Federal Investigation

Finding out that you’re the subject or target of a federal investigation can be an extremely scary experience. There are several federal agencies that carry out investigations, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

Additionally, there are many other agencies that investigate possible federal crimes. For example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) conducts various investigations related to white-collar crime and tax crimes, which can carry significant penalties upon conviction.

How Do You Know When You’re Under Federal Investigation?

One of the disconcerting things about federal investigations is that you don’t always know when you’re the subject or target of one. In some cases, federal agents may ask to speak with you, and this can be an indication that you’re under investigation.

In other cases, you might receive what’s known as a “target letter,” which notifies you that you’re the target of an investigation. Federal prosecutors and investigators sometimes send target letters to give individuals an opportunity to come and talk to investigators about what they know regarding a possible crime.

If you know you’re the subject or target of an investigation, you might not know what to do next. It’s normal to feel confused and anxious about what steps to take.

While it’s important to understand what you should do, it’s just as important to know what behaviors and activities you should avoid. With that in mind, here are five things you should not do if you’re under federal investigation.

  1. Fail to Hire a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

    When you’re under federal investigation and have yet to be charged with a crime, you might wrongly assume you don’t need a criminal defense lawyer.

    However, federal investigations can be incredibly complex. In some cases, the investigation might not lead to criminal charges. In other cases, however, prosecutors might decide to pursue charges.

    The sooner you start working with a knowledgeable Dallas federal criminal defense lawyer, the better prepared you will be to handle your case if prosecutors decide to file charges against you.

  2. Fail to Enforce Your Rights

    Understandably, people often feel intimidated when federal agents show up at their door. They might start answering questions or allow these agents into their home without asking if the agents have a warrant.

    Just like with regular police officers, federal agents are bound by the law. Consequently, this means police or federal agents are unable to enter your home or property without a search warrant unless some kind of exception applies.

    Likewise, you have the right to have a defense lawyer with you when you’re being questioned by federal investigators. You should be polite and respectful to federal agents, but you don’t have to forego your constitutional rights when you interact with them.

  3. Lie to a Federal Investigator or Prosecutor

    Most people are aware that lying under oath is a crime. However, you may not realize that you can still be charged with a crime for lying to a federal agent or prosecutor, even if you’re not under oath at the time.

    When you work with a federal criminal defense lawyer, your lawyer can help you avoid making any statements that could possibly incriminate you. At the same time, your lawyer can provide guidance so you don’t end up making any false statements that could land you in trouble with federal prosecutors or investigators.

  4. Discuss Your Case Online or with Friends

    Being under federal investigation can be extremely stressful and you may wonder who you can safely talk to about your criminal case. When you’re under a high amount of stress, it makes sense that you could want to vent or discuss your case with a friend, relative or co-worker. You might even be tempted to post about your case online.

    However, this is a terrible idea. The discussions you have with friends, relatives and others are not protected by any kind of legal privilege. This means that investigators and prosecutors can question the people you speak to, and perhaps even issue a subpoena forcing them to share what you discussed.
    You should also avoid posting anything about the investigation online, including on social media. Federal prosecutors and investigators regularly monitor a subject’s or target’s social media accounts for this reason.

  5. Destroy Evidence

    When you find out that you’re under federal investigation, your first instinct might be to get rid of anything that might implicate you in a crime. However, destroying or tampering with evidence in a federal investigation is a serious crime.

    Under federal law, an individual who destroys or tampers with evidence may face a maximum of 20 years in prison if they’re convicted.

    This reality is another reason why it’s in your best interest to work with a Dallas federal criminal defense lawyer if you’re under federal investigation. Your lawyer can help make sure you don’t tamper with or throw out anything that prosecutors or investigators might consider to be evidence in a case or investigation.

    If you or a loved one are facing a federal investigation or have been charged with a federal crime, get in touch with a federal criminal defense attorney at the Broden & Mickelsen, LLP in Dallas today.

Dallas Best Criminal Defense Lawyers
Broden & Mickelsen, LLP
Tel: (214) 720-9552


  1. https://www.justice.gov/usao-mdpa/federal-investigative-agencies
  2. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1001
  3. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1519

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.