Doing business today is fraught with legal complexities involving everything from the tax code to issues dealing with intellectual property. From the CEO, to every manager with decision making duties, business executives are paying closer and closer attention to regulatory and legal fine print these days, since the risk of inadvertent violation could be the price of doing otherwise.
The fact is, there are still a lot of gray areas to many of the legal intricacies that businesses have to navigate, and this can engender an uncomfortable working environment. Do you really have something to worry about? Is someone, or some agency looking at some aspect of your actions with the possible intent of charging you with a crime?
A criminal lawyer is often best utilized when he begins his efforts on your behalf early in the process of any potential legal charges you may, or may not be facing. These are experts at getting answers, and then designing a plan of response that best protects your rights and interests. But, if you haven’t actually been charged with a crime, how do you know it’s time to talk to a lawyer?
Being Under Investigation
Oftentimes, someone first gets a sense that they are the target of an official investigation when they hear from a colleague, or friend, that someone from a government agency has contacted them with questions about your business, or you personally. These are frequently questions that are part of a routine investigation, and never go any further once certain information is clarified.
However, sometimes these contacts are the first warning signs of a looming legal threat. If a routine investigation is escalated to involve you directly, there are a number of typical ways that you could discover this. They include:
- You receive a target letter, or subject letter officially informing you that you are under investigation.
- You are contacted by a state, or federal investigator who wants to question you.
- You receive a subpoena to testify in-front at a grand jury investigation.
- You’re presented with a search warrant to seize your business records.
- You receive a grand jury subpoena to produce certain business documents.
Once it has reached this stage, you now know that it’s time for the assistance of a criminal lawyer so that you will be acting intelligently and prudently as you move to respond.
Once you are officially notified that you are under investigation, it is crucial that you talk to a criminal lawyer before you answer any questions, or cooperate with an investigation in any way. Many people feel that if they can just explain things to an investigator first, the issue will never get as far as your needing an attorney. Wrong. The fact that you are under investigation means things have already progressed that far.
The reason this is so important is that you can never retract any statement, or information you give to investigators once you’ve been informed of your rights. Without speaking to a criminal lawyer beforehand, you have no way to know what information to release, or even if you need to talk with the investigators at all. In some instances, a criminal lawyer can even have an investigation stopped before it requires your direct involvement.
Yes, dealing with an investigation of a possible white collar crime is unsettling. But arming yourself with the advice of a criminal defense professional is the surest way to knowing exactly where you stand, and what your next step needs to be. And that’s the beginning of a return to peace of mind.