The rare federal criminal suspect simply receives a call from the local FBI, ICE, or DEA agency that politely asks them to turn themselves in for a crime that could see them locked away for decades on end. Instead, a more common theme is that federal law enforcement either shows up at the door with a warrant to search the premises or that they do so, but they don’t knock, electing instead to kick down the door in the middle of the night. This article strives to advise soon-to-be federal criminal defendants and their families on navigating the often treacherous waters of being arrested and what follows thereafter.
Table of contents
Make sure you invoke your right to remain silent
This can be done by simply repeating, “I have nothing to say at this time. Any questions can be directed to my attorney.” It’s just that simple. Once law enforcement is already executing a search warrant, nothing is to be done but batten down the hatches and try to ride it out. It’s the attorney’s job to deal with the prosecutor and investigating agency, not yours.
Decline to consent to a search of person or property
If a police officer or federal agent comes to the door and asks if they can look around, always decline to consent to a search of person or property. Law enforcement can engage in some types of pat-down searches without your permission (e.g., Terry Stops, stop-and-frisks, searches incident to arrest, plain sight, etc.). But never permit law enforcement to enter your office, dwelling, or vehicle without a valid search warrant. If they are investigating a crime that you or a family member might have committed, then they are there to gather evidence, not help you or sort out a mix-up. While, theoretically, cooperating with law enforcement shows them you have nothing to hide, the truth of the matter is that once on federal law enforcement’s radar, and especially after a search warrant has been issued, they most likely have sufficient evidence to move forward. Law enforcement is not your friend. They are not there to resolve a misunderstanding. Their sole goal is to uncover crime and apprehend the offender. This cannot be stressed enough: law enforcement is not there to help those who have committed crimes; they are there to gather evidence and have a judge decide their fate. If they are already knocking on the door (or have already kicked it down), there is nothing to do but remain silent and ask to speak with an attorney. Be polite but not forthcoming as it concerns their questions. Retain an attorney
Retaining an attorney will not make you look guilty. This is a typical CSI-type response that law enforcement agents sometimes invoke, but it is trickery. If you’ve already spoken with law enforcement and are worried you said something you shouldn’t have, immediately advise your attorney of what was said, in what context, and what lead up to the discussion. For example, if you were already in handcuffs, did they first read you your Miranda rights? If you were not under arrest, were you being investigated for a crime? Was your liberty restricted by the police officer not permitting you to leave the location in question? All of these come into play when determining if it was a custodial interrogation and, if so, if the police should have advised you of your right to remain silent and to an attorney. Confessions made under duress can also sometimes be suppressed depending on the specifics. Note that if you have already made an incriminating statement and the investigator is now trying to get you to sign it, decline. The same rules apply if investigators come and try to speak to you in jail. Do not speak to anyone other than your attorney about the case in question. This includes jail guards, law enforcement agents, and any cellmates. Say no specifics. This way you won’t be tying your attorney’s hands behind his or her back when it comes to defending you.
Don’t tell on yourself
One way to keep harmful evidence of a crime from being obtained by law enforcement is to not tell on yourself. If law enforcement personnel are already speaking with you or searching your property, it is already too late. The best course of action is to remain silent and speak with an attorney before answering any questions. This is true for the innocent along with the guilty. You may wonder if law enforcement can question your children and family. While they can certainly ask questions of adult family members (and friends, for that matter), they probably require parental consent (or the consent of another guardian) in order to speak to a child. If you are a single parent who is the sole caretaker, then they probably require your consent prior to doing so. Do note that family members sometimes think that they are doing the right thing by speaking openly and honestly with law enforcement. They should be advised that their comments can be used as evidence against you in a criminal proceeding.
If you or someone you know has been arrested, Contact us for more information and guidance on the next steps.
Parents of Offenders: What To Do When the Police Come Knocking
The American criminal justice system is a cold and cruel machine. The system is designed to a) learn of the crime, b) locate and apprehend the bad guy, c) present a case for the bad guy to be found guilty in a court of law, and d) sanction the then criminal. It’s just this simple. The American criminal justice system isn’t about fixing people, it’s about punishing people. And, sadly, even with this understanding, most Americans still support it. After all, the cops are the good guys, right?
This article presents an example of a real-world situation in which a child has committed a real-world crime. It suggests a quick method of mitigation, and then provides steps to take if mitigation is not possible. The idea is that through the example presented, parents can visualize a situation they could theoretically one day be exposed to. And then, in an effort to prepare parents for if the worst is to occur (a true criminal investigation into a serious violation of criminal law), steps are given to help shield a child from criminal liability and exposure.
Published Jun 2, 2021 | Last Updated Jan 25, 2022 at 5:41 pm