You should never speak to law enforcement, federal or otherwise, without your attorney present. Discuss this issue with your attorney.
The response above is not intended as legal advice. This response does not create an attorney-client relationship. Legal questions can only be fully answered through consultation with an attorney to whom you give full and accurate details. Anything you post here is not confidential and is not protected by the attorney-client relationship. It is highly recommended that you seek advice from a criminal defense attorney licensed in your jurisdiction by setting up a confidential meeting.
There is no rigid protocol to how such interviews proceed, when a deal is floated or if at all and how offers of leniency are raised. It all matters on the facts of the case and the scope of the individual's involvement and prior record.
Making a mistake in an interview is quite different from lying. How to handle that properly (if at all and when) should be discussed with and left to the discretion of your counsel.
Many times a special agent will invite you for coffee or come to your home to speak with you. He/she will tell you there is nothing to worry about, gather all the information they need and go to the AUSA to file the complaint. If you are smart, you don't speak with them and contact your attorney immediately. A good federal defense attorney will handle it from there. Good luck.
BTW -- if you lie, you are hosed. Its a federal offense to lie to an agent. You will need a federal attorney at that point. Don't try it alone unless you would like a few years off honeymooning with Bubba.
The response above is not intended as legal advice since it’s impracticable to provide thorough, accurate advice based upon the query without additional details. It is highly recommended that one should seek advice from a criminal defense attorney licensed in your jurisdiction by setting up a confidential meeting. Moreover, this response does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship since this message is not a confidential communication because it was posted on a public website, thereby publicly disclosing the information, which is another reason to setup a confidential meeting with an attorney.
Look, interviews, proffers, cooperation are all very specific to the specific scenario. I represent many federal criminal defendants in many different contexts. Every situation is different, with one exception. "Mistakes" or lies to federal agents often end badly because they often have more information than you do. You can correct mistakes by first hiring a skilled federal criminal practitioner who has the trust of the prosecutor and/or agents you are working with. Then do everything in your power to underscore your veracity and willingness to never mislead them or minimize your own criminal conduct. You have a difficult road ahead. Hire a good lawyer.
No legal advice is given here. My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must NOT be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions & Answers forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. I am only licensed in the States of California and New York and the District of Columbia
My colleagues are right. Nothing good comes from talking to federal agents. Retain an attorney and have him or her interface with the government.
There is no hypothetical here - get an attorney before talking to anyone. If you cannot afford an attorney, the Federal defenders can appoint you one.
I agree with all my colleagues. I will add only one thing more. You can safely assume that any agent who wants to talk to you already knows a lot more than you think, and a lot more than you do. You correct mistakes and lies to a federal agent by doing a few extra years in prison. We all come to the same conclusion. Don't try to do this yourself.
I will add that talking to law enforcement in a federal case will only help if it is guided by a good lawyer and if you have information the feds WANT AND NEED. And those three conditions are rarely ever present in any one case. Having said that, I agree with all other attorneys and suggest you speak to an attorney about your particular case AND NEVER SAY ANYTHING ONLINE that can be used against you in court.
This is a serious situation and you need to consult with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney right away. There are many good criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles but it is very important to understand that most criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles do not defend both federal and state cases; they usually do one or the other. Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, which is commonly referred to as making a false statement, makes it a felony punishable by at least up to 5 years in federal prison for lying to federal agents. You need a lawyer who knows the false statements statute well and has significant experience defending federal criminal cases.
David Vaughn is one of the very few attorneys who have been both an Assistant U.S. Attorney (federal prosecutor) and Deputy District Attorney (state prosecutor) in Los Angeles. He also served as Congressional Counsel (lawyer in U.S. Congress). His responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. Sending him information does not create an attorney-client relationship and the information is not privileged or confidential. He gives legal advice only in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship, which means his client and he have signed a written agreement for his provision of legal services to him or her.
You have described government interviews in different ways. Each has it's significance and application. For instance, government agents may contact an individual as a WITNESS, rather than a SUSPECT. Many times, defense counsel can arrange a meeting wherein protection, i.e., immunity is granted to the individual. This protects him/her from criminal exposure arising from the statements made at the (proffer) meeting. Sometimes, experienced defense counsel can treat his/her SUSPECT client as a WITNESS, thereby offering protection from prosecution.
A cooperation agreement will result in a meeting between agents and the client. In this meeting, which usually follows a guilty plea to a charge, an individual is afforded the ability to provide information or even act as a government agent, in order to reduce his/her own sentence as a result of the guilty plea.
The last part of your query raises an important part: ONE IS NEVER PROTECTED FROM LYING TO THE GOVERNMENT. That being said, the best way to correct any "misstatements" is to have an experienced federal defense attorney contact the government on your behalf.
Never go in without a lawyer. A lawyer can help you in advance of an interview, by telling you what it's about and advising whether you should submit to interview at all. If you've already talked with the Feds, that's OK, but now it's important to protect yourself to the maximum extent you can. A proffer is arranged through counsel to make sure you are protected essentially from your own statements. If you made misstatements at a prior interview, that's not necessarily the end of the world but you need help fixing it before it gets worse. An attorney can help you with that. The US Government should not be faced alone.