If you’re involved in a federal investigation, then it’s something you should take extremely seriously. Even if you think you did nothing wrong, do not assume you can ignore the situation in hopes of making it go away. Regardless of the reason for your involvement with any federal prosecutor or agent, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced federal defense attorney. It is also important to understand what your role is in the investigation because this will help you understand the choices you face.
If you are involved in a federal investigation, you will fall into one of three categories: a witness, a subject, or a target.
Witnesses: There is a common misconception that to be a witness, you must have seen a crime taking place. In fact, you are considered a witness if you have any information that investigators believe may be important to the case. For example, this may mean you are a co-worker or an employee of someone who is under investigation for having committed a crime. Your testimony may be as simple as confirming that someone came to the business on a certain day and time. Being a witness is the best category of the three to be in. However, a person who is thought of as a witness could easily turn into a subject or a target if they are more involved in the situation, which is why even someone categorized as a witness should seek the advice of an attorney.
Subjects: According to the Department of Justice Handbook, a subject is someone whose “conduct is within the scope of the Grand Jury’s investigation.” If you are a subject, investigators are looking at you in an effort to determine whether or not a prosecutable crime has been committed. Being a subject usually means that the government thinks you probably did, in fact, commit a crime, but they are still trying to piece things together. This is definitely not when you want to try and talk your way out of the situation! Trying to convince the government that you are not involved in any criminal activity can easily turn you into a target.
Targets: Being a target in a federal investigation is the worst-case scenario. This means that you are suspected of a crime and there is substantial evidence pointing toward your guilt. You will usually start out as a subject and only be named as a target when prosecutors are ready to bring criminal charges against you. As a target, you will have certain choices. For example, you could decide to wait for the government to Indict, you or you could try and negotiate with them for lesser charges or a better resolution.
Whether you are a witness, a subject, or a target, you ALWAYS need an attorney by your side when you’re part of a federal investigation. If you are contacted by federal agents for questioning or given a grand jury subpoena for documents and/or testimony, an experienced criminal defense attorney can assist in protecting your rights. The attorneys at Puglisi Law are here to help. We encourage you to reach out today.