In this guide, attorney Figueroa-Contreras answers questions about being under investigation for, or charged with, a federal crime and what steps to take if you are contacted by a federal prosecutor or federal law enforcement agents.
How do I know if I am under investigation for a federal crime?
This is not always possible to ascertain. In some cases, you may get what is known as a "target letter" from the United States Attorney's Office (federal prosecutors). This letter advises you that you are the target of a federal investigation. Occasionally, you will get a visit by a federal law enforcement agent or agents. They may ask you some questions, and they will almost invariably try to convince you that it is in your best interest to talk to them.
What do I do if I federal agents approach me to ask me questions about criminal activity?
This can be a dilemma- whether or not to talk to law enforcement. While your willingness to come forward with the truth about your involvement in the crime may benefit you, it is never a good idea to talk to law enforcement without a competent criminal defense attorney present. Keep in mind that whatever you say might be used against you.
If I receive a "target letter" from the U.S. Attorney's Office, will I definitely be charged?
Not always. In some cases, prosecution may be avoided, or at least minimized, provided you retain a competent federal criminal defense attorney to assist you. If criminal charges are inevitable, your attorney can help arrange for a self-surrender and improve your chances of being released on bond.
How do I know if I have already been charged with a federal crime?
In rare cases, you will receive a letter from a federal prosecutor advising you that you have been charged and will have to appear in court for an initial appearance. In many cases, however, you may be under federal charges via a criminal information or even indictment and not even know it. These charging documents are often sealed from public access until some or all of the defendants are arrested and brought to face their charges. You may not learn of the charges until armed federal law enforcement agents come knocking at your door, often in the early morning hours, to arrest you and take you into custody. Upon arrest, the law enforcement officers may try to ask you questions. It is always best to have an attorney present before answering any questions about the underlying charges. This is your Fifth Amendment right.
Federal agents came to my home or business to execute a search warrant, what does this mean?
The execution of a search warrant at your home or business does not necessarily mean you have been, or will be charged. It simply means that a federal magistrate judge has signed off on a warrant request to search for what the Government believes may be evidence of a crime. The warrant gives the agents the right to rifle through your things. A criminal defense attorney should get involved to protect your interests if this happens.
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on
their profile in addition to the information we collect from state
bar associations and other organizations that license legal
professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo
with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do
What determines Avvo Rating?Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, education
Legal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awards
Legal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagements
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority in .
Disciplinary information may not be comprehensive, or updated. We recommend that you always check a lawyer's disciplinary status with their respective state bar association before hiring them.