5 Things to Be Aware of When Talking to a Federal Agent
Dealing with federal agents can be very tricky. Federal agents are experts in catching suspects off-guard and they often have the upper hand in terms of information by the time they contact an individual. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind if you are ever approached by a federal agent.
1. Don’t Be Fooled
You are being investigated. No matter what the agents represent to you as the reason for contacting you, you need to assume that you are the target of their investigation. Federal agents often initially approach suspects under the guise of interviewing them in regard to the investigation of other people. They will ask you questions not about you but about “them.” This tactic is a ploy to entice to let your guard down and unwittingly reveal self-incriminating information. The interview may very well be about you. Don’t be fooled.
2. NEVER Give an Interview
You are not required to give an interview, and you should never give an interview without the representation of counsel. As explained above, while federal agents may tell you that they are merely questioning you about someone else’s activities, they may be investigating you. Any time you give an interview, the agents are taking notes and may use all information obtained against you in the future. Therefore, it is imperative that before you agree to an interview, you have an attorney present to protect your rights and to avoid self-incrimination.
3. Be Respectful
Although you do not need to agree to an interview, you should nonetheless be polite and respectful to any federal agents who approach you. During your interactions, the agents will be making a credibility judgment about you, and there is no benefit to giving them a reason to dislike you. Importantly, being respectful includes promptly identifying yourself when asked, which you are legally obligated to do. Then, politely decline any requests for an interview, a search, or any other information.
4. Get a Business Card
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself after being contacted by federal agents is to request all of the approaching agents’ business cards. Once you have secured legal counsel, knowing what agents and from which agency will be very useful information for helping your attorney determine the nature and scope of the investigation you are involved in. The business cards will also provide your attorney with the contact information for the agents so that your attorney can handle communications with the government going forward. Getting a business card from the agents is an easy and respectful way to obtain this information.
5. Don’t Lie
When you are speaking to federal agents, any misrepresentation, omission, or presentation of a misleading document regarding a material fact is a felony and is punishable by imprisonment and large fines. While the federal agents may legally lie or misrepresent facts to you, prosecutors can and will pursue criminal charges against you if you do the same. To avoid any issues, your smartest move is to avoid any substantive conversations with the agents by politely declining an interview and then immediately calling a lawyer, who will supervise any subsequent communications with federal agents.
If you have been contacted by federal investigators, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to call an attorney as soon as possible. At Oberheiden, P.C., our team of former prosecutors and experienced defense attorneys is standing by to assist you with your case. All initial consultations are free and confidential. Call us today to see how we can serve you.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden, founder of Oberheiden P.C., focuses his litigation practice on white-collar criminal defense, government investigations, SEC & FCPA enforcement, and commercial litigation.