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Responding to ICE Workplace Search Warrants: What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

Call the Federal Lawyers at Oberheiden P.C. to Protect Your Freedom

Because search warrants require a judge to see “probable cause” that a crime was committed or that evidence of a crime can be found at the place to be searched and seized, search warrant executions are rare but very meaningful events within a federal criminal investigation. This article, co-written by former Justice Department officials, attempts to outline the circumstances for the government to obtain a warrant and the mistakes business owners should avoid in the context of an ICE investigation—despite the enormous stress and sense of crisis that the presence of federal agents creates.

Former DOJ-Lawyers Are Here to Help You

Oberheiden, P.C. defends individuals and businesses in situations like federal search warrants and federal criminal investigations. With decades of experience gained at various U.S. Attorney Office’s, the FBI, and the Department of Justice, our attorneys are well-trained and prepared to provide immediate assistance in times of crisis. In far beyond hundreds of federal investigations involving the FBI, the IRS, ICE, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies, our attorneys offer first-hand knowledge and experience when it comes to search warrants and the defense of businesses and their owners.

  • Hundreds of Federal Criminal Cases Handled Nationwide
  • Former DOJ Officials and U.S. Senate Confirmed Attorneys
  • Nationally Respected Defense and Trial Counsel
  • Personalized Service, No Junior Lawyers

ICE Enforcement Responsibilities

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security are responsible for, among others, the enforcement of federal laws affecting terrorism, trafficking, and immigration matters. Over the past few months, ICE investigations have dramatically increased due to new government policies and Department of Justice directives. Businesses such as manufacturers, assembly line operations, agricultural farms, and others with a traditionally higher percentage of workers with foreign roots, have become a focus of ICE immigration raids. While a large quantity of these raids having occurred in Southern California, Texas, Nevada, Florida, Arizona, and other regions with migrant residents and workers, other states, too, such as New York and Ohio, have reported federal investigations against businesses and employers.

At the core of these investigations and raids is the accusation that companies have engaged in the hiring of illegal workers. While not every violation calls for measures as drastic as a search warrant, ICE investigators are focusing on those instances in which they believe to have revealed systematic, on-going, and widespread violations of those federal laws that make it a crime to employ or harbor illegal workers.

Search Warrants Require Probable Cause

Government agents can’t just walk into your office and take computers. Various provisions in the U.S. constitution protect you against unwanted government intrusion. However, an important exception exists in situations where the visit and the intrusion were previously reviewed and approved by a federal judge, typically a magistrate judge. It is the government’s burden to convince a judge to agree that in light of all the information available, there is probable cause that a crime was committed, and that evidence of such crime can be found at the place to be searched and seized.

In practice, prosecutors and agents prepare a package for the reviewing judge that contains a detailed summary of the exact status of the investigation. Part of this dossier typically is at least one sworn statement from an ICE agent familiar with the investigation. The agent’s affidavit will describe in detail why the business is under investigation, what witnesses have testified about the alleged crimes, what tangible or non-tangible evidence the government has at this point in the investigation to pursue a prosecution. A cumulation of surveillance records, witness statements, summaries of law enforcement personal observations, bank records, I-9 records, corporate documents, statements from confidential informants, and many other pieces all form the foundation for a judge to consider probable cause.

Things Not to Do During or After an ICE Search Warrant

Human nature prompts most people that find themselves in trouble, to deny, downplay, or destroy the problem. Each one of these reactions could lead to fatal outcomes when it comes to ICE raids and federal investigations.

Mistake 1: Lying to a Federal Agent (18 U.S.C. 1001)— Up to Five Years in Prison

Unknown to most people (and most lawyers), everything you discuss with a federal agent is subject to 18 U.S.C. 1001. Per this statute, it is a federal felony to lie, downplay, misremember, deny, withhold, or misrepresent any material information. It’s the fastest ticket to federal prison to be untruthful or to hold back information when talking to FBI or ICE agents.

>> Recommendation: NEVER talk to law enforcement without a federal defense attorney with you.

Mistake 2: Obstruction of Justice (18 U.S.C. 1519)— Up to Twenty Years in Prison

Nobody likes bad information. What if you delete a text, “clean” some emails, or destroy some documents in the context of an investigation. Well, whoever knowingly alters, destroys, conceals, covers up, falsifies etc. an entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence a federal investigation (e.g. ICE audit), shall be imprisoned not more than 20 years. That’s another federal statute to obey by.

>> Recommendation: Absolutely do NOT destroy, hide, alter anything whether electronic or non-electronic.

Mistake 3: Don’t Wait. Call Experienced Attorneys at the First Sign of an Investigation.

Lastly, keep in mind that your chances to escape an investigation unharmed are significantly higher the earlier an experienced federal lawyer is on board and can intervene, challenge, and stop the investigation. The longer you wait, the more time you give the government. Call Oberheiden PC today and find out how we can help you and how we can protect what you have built before the government’s case gets out of control.

Oberheiden, P.C. Has Successfully Defended Businesses and Individual Clients in Federal Cases Across the Country

Providing effective and reliable advice for clients facing federal investigations is not a hobby. It requires skillset, quality of advice, and, last but not least experience. Oberheiden PC is a federal criminal defense law firm. We don’t take drunk driving cases or engage in general criminal defense work. We focus our practice to federal cases because we believe that we can only do a good job when our clients can count on our experience and our track record. In hundreds of federal cases we have helped clients like you avoid charges, avoid jail, and avoid a total collapse of their businesses. Here are a few questions you should ask lawyers before you hire anyone of them:

  • What Percentage of Your Practice Is Federal Criminal Defense?
    Oberheiden, P.C.: Extremely Close to 100%
  • How Many Federal Investigations Have You Handled?
    Oberheiden, P.C.: Dr. Nick Oberheiden alone: hundreds of federal cases.
  • Do You Represent Clients in DUI, Domestic Violence, or Murder Cases?
    Oberheiden, P.C.: No.
  • How Many Search Warrant Cases Have You Handled?
    Oberheiden, P.C.: Due to our focus on federal cases, literally hundreds.
  • Have You Avoided Charges in Federal Criminal Investigations?
    Oberheiden, P.C.: Yes, in the vast majority of early engagements.
  • Have You Avoided Charges After a Search Warrant Was Executed?
    Oberheiden, P.C.: Yes, numerous times. Several times in the last 3 months alone.
  • Who Will Handle My Case?
    Oberheiden, P.C.: Only senior partner level lawyers. We do not use junior lawyers.

Protect Your Freedom. Call Oberheiden, P.C. Now.

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