Criminal investigations, and especially grand jury investigations, are very serious. They begin either with a subpoena served by two federal agents, or contact by a state law enforcement officer. They will attempt to conduct a “voluntary interview” about the events that they are investigating. Although you must accept service of a subpoena, we recommend that you retain us to help you decide whether to talk to law enforcement, and to be sure that there is a witness if you give a statement. Otherwise, it’s their word against yours: two against one. You should not be alone when interviewed by state or federal agents.Many investigations become a “media circus” reported on television and in the local newspapers. Usually, this is something our clients wish to avoid. We will do everything we can to maintain a low profile for your case, unless as a matter of strategy the client decides that he or she want the publicity. Most clients do not want their families, co-workers and friends to read that they are involved in a criminal investigation, or face criminal charges. This may be a significant difference between us and other lawyers.
The Grand Jury and Indictments
An indictment is a formal, written charge, voted “true” by the grand jury that “investigated” by hearing evidence offered by prosecutions. An indictment states that one or more defendants have committed an offense. Federal indictments usually charge several offenses, each presented in a separate “count.” Most federal indictments start with a charge of conspiracy. From there, counts charging other general offenses such as money laundering may be added, and more specific crimes or regulatory violations in the following counts.
State grand jury indictments usually charge one defendant with a single offense – but that is not always true. When supported by a successful, immediate investigation, we recommend presenting innocent clients to the state grand jury.
Federal Agency Investigations
Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has general jurisdiction over federal crimes, the alphabet soup of federal agencies and cooperative federal-state projects is too numerous to list. Most federal agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Aviation Agency, have an internal “police force” of Special Agents or Inspectors General (This includes the ATF, BLM, DOD, FAA, FDIC, GAO, DHS, ICE, SEC, IRS, OCEDEF, INS and so on). We’ve had cases with them all.
Often the best defense succeeds in avoiding charges ever being filed. When we get hired early, that is usually our first objective. Often we can prove the client is innocent and avoid the expense and ordeal of ever going to court. Sometimes we can persuade the authorities to accept a civil penalty instead of moving forward with criminal charges.
Juvenile courts hear cases for defendants under the age of 17, but may certify a child to stand trial as an adult. There is a unique set of laws and procedures that apply to investigations and prosecutions against children: the range of consequences is from dismissal and protection of the child from having any criminal record at all, to certification and a term of years in a penitentiary with violent adult offenders. In theory, the juvenile courts place special emphasis on the protection and well-being of the minor defendant. We fight to keep children from being transferred to adult courts, and to learn from the tragedies they face so they can become productive and responsible citizens without a criminal record.