If you are faced with a search warrant for your business, it is highly important that you take steps to protect yourself and your business.
Ask For Identification
You have the right to ask for the identification of the agent-in-charge. Try to get a business card, and ask for the name of the prosecutor on the case. This information may be helpful for your attorney.
Contact Your Attorney
Immediately contact your in-house or outside counsel. You generally have the right to talk to an attorney while the search is in progress. If you prefer, you can ask the agents to speak to your attorney, although they may decline to do so.
Request That The Search Be Delayed Until Counsel Can Be Present
Although they are not required to honor the request, you can ask the agents to delay the start of the search until counsel can be present. Having an attorney present can help ensure that the search is limited to the items or areas actually listed in the search warrant.
Read The Warrant.
The agents must show you a copy of the warrant. Make a copy, if one is not given to you. Read it carefully. The scope of the search should be limited to the items and/or areas identified in the warrant. Don't consent to a search of any location or documents not identified in the warrant.
Don't Help, But Don't Hinder.
You are not required to assist in the search or answer any questions. But, do not interfere in the search in any way and don't hide or destroy anything. You may be tempted to volunteer information about the company or employees, perhaps in an attempt to speed things along. This is generally a bad idea.
Take Care Of Your Computers
Often the search warrant will authorize the search of computers and their hard drives. If the agents are planning on taking computers, ask--insist if you can--that rather than the computers being taken away, that the hard-drives be "imaged" on site. Most government agencies have this capability. Do not give the agents any passwords until you talk with your attorney.
If Possible, Send Employees Home.
Advise your employees that it is their choice whether to be interviewed by the agents. You cannot force them to talk or not to talk. Oftentimes it is best to announce to the employees that the company is cooperating with the investigation, that they should go home for the day, and return the next day at their regular time to clean up from the search and resume their regular duties. Make a list of all employees who spoke with the agents. Your attorney will want to know this information.
Employees Might Need Counsel Too
Employees can require that any interview occur at another time, and with an attorney present. It is often a good idea to have an attorney--often a separate attorney from the company's lawyer--present for the interview.
Don't Talk To The Media
A search warrant executed at a business can lead to media attention. Don't talk to the media unprepared. Ask your employees to keep the fact of the search confidential.
Get An Inventory Of Items Seized
The agents are generally required to leave a copy of an inventory of all items or documents seized. Be sure to get a copy of the inventory. It is often hand-written. If it is illegible at any point, ask the agent to decipher it for you. Insist that any items seized but not listed be added to the inventory.
Make A Record
Inventory and photograph all areas searched as soon as the search is over.
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