What To Know If You Under Investigation for a State or Federal Crime

Learning that you are under investigation for a state or federal crime, whether you actually committed the crime or not, is both unsettling and serious. For this reason you should retain counsel immediately rather than wait to see if formal charges will be filed.  As is more fully explained below,  counsel will be able to communicate with both the investigating agency and the prosecutor to determine exactly what the investigation concerns  Thereafter, counsel will discuss the matter with you in detail and formulate a defense strategy designed to prevent charges from being lodged and/or to mitigate the seriousness of the ultimate charge.

White-collar crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion and the like ordinarily require lengthy investigation before charges are filed.  However, complicated drug trafficking crimes and other non white collar crimes involving several individuals may also be subject to investigation by law enforcement agencies to determine who is involved, what role each person had in the crime and other important details.

If you are under investigation for a state or federal crime in Portland, you should not hesitate to contact a Maine criminal lawyer. The best way to avoid being charged with a state or federal crime is to retain a skilled, experienced lawyer who will work to prevent such charges and ensure that your constitutional rights are protected.

State vs. Federal Crimes

There are several differences in state and federal criminal prosecutions. State crimes are investigated by state agents, county sheriffs, and local police officers and are prosecuted by city attorneys or state district attorneys. On the other hand, federal crimes are investigated by such federal law enforcement agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and are prosecuted by United States Attorney’s Office.

May I Be Investigated by both State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies for the Same Crime?

The simple answer is yes. If you are suspected of criminal conduct that violates both  state and federal law, you may be investigated state and federal law enforcement officials even for the same criminal conduct. Both Maine state law and federal law criminalize many kinds of criminal activity such as drug trafficking, fraud and other serious criminal conduct that violates criminal statues in both jurisdictions. In such cases, local and/or state law enforcement agencies will work together with federal agencies during the investigation often in task forces which are made up with officers from both. However, these cases are normally only prosecuted by one jurisdiction depending on the seriousness of the alleged criminal conduct or how extensive it is.  The more serious or extensive it is the more likely the case will be prosecuted federally by the United States Attorney’s Office.

An experienced lawyer who has handles both federal and state cases is best equipped to assist you in navigating the intricacies of such matters since he or she has a better understanding of the investigative and legal process in both jurisdictions.

What Can Happen During A Criminal Investigation?

In a federal or state criminal investigation, prosecutors and agents will work together in an attempt to bring a criminal charge against the target(s) of their investigation.   The agents may come to your home without warning to interrogate when you are least prepared. They may  use deception and/or threats to persuade you to speak with them or to otherwise incriminate yourself or others, all of which may be used against you if a subsequent criminal case is brought.

Other investigative measures that law enforcement agencies use during the investigative process include the following:

  • Placing a wiretap on your phone;
  • Recording conversations;
  • Reviewing your financial documents;
  • Executing multiple search warrants; and
  • Monitoring your daily activity (including your online activity).

As a result,  it is important to have an experienced lawyer on your side who knows how the federal and/or state investigative process works.

How Will I Know I Am Under A Criminal Investigation?

You often are not initially aware that you are the target of criminal investigation.  However, if you encounter any of the following, you should immediately contact an experienced  criminal lawyer.

  • A state agency or federal agent contacts you;
  • A co-worker or anyone you have a professional relationship with is being investigated;
  • State or federal agents have searched your home;
  • You have received a grand jury subpoena; or
  • You received a letter informing you that you are the target of an investigation

What Should I Do If I Am Under Investigation?

If you are the target or subject of a state or federal investigation, you should not speak to anyone or send any written information to anyone without legal representation. While it is tempting to share such alarming information with a friend or family member,  anything you say if discovered by law enforcement may be used against you in a subsequent prosecution.  It is especially important not to contact a potential witness in a effort to persuade him or her not to cooperate with law enforcement investigators  because this may be construed as obstruction of justice, a very serious charge.

Anyone you speak to about the investigation may later be interviewed the agents and compelled to disclose what was said. You should also be aware that the people you speak to about the investigation could already be aware of the investigation and cooperating with such agents.

Whether you are under state or federal investigation, the Law Office of Richard Berne will help you navigate the criminal justice system and ultimately obtain the best overall result in your case.  Please do not hesitate to call us at 207-871-7770 for your free consultation or complete our online form.