What to Expect When You’re Facing White Collar Charges

One big difference between white-collar criminal charges and other criminal charges is that if you’re going to be charged with a white collar crime, you’ll probably know about it ahead of time. You might have been contacted by the Securities and Exchange Commission or the FBI. You might have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury and testify or produce business records. You might have received a target letter informing you that you’re the target of an investigation.

What should you do if you receive a target letter or grand jury subpoena? The first thing is to hire a lawyer with experience defending against white-collar charges. If you’re contacted by investigators, it’s important not to make any statements until after you’ve spoken to a lawyer.

Receiving a target letter is an indication that the government has what it considers substantial evidence linking you to a crime. There’s a good chance you’ll be indicted. A target letter means the investigation has been going on for a while, but not receiving a target letter doesn’t mean you’re safe. Occasionally targets are notified, but frequently they aren’t. If you have any indication that federal agents are investigating your activities, don’t wait to hire a lawyer. It’s significantly easier to get a case dismissed prior to an indictment – so bringing an attorney onto your team as soon as possible is important.

It is not uncommon for federal agents to visit a target of an investigation at their home or place of business. Typically there will be two agents, and the encounter will occur without warning. The agents prefer it that way, because the element of surprise has proven very effective in obtaining information. In fact, not providing information to the government may be difficult. The agents conducting the  interview are experts at obtaining incriminating information, and anyone being interviewed must be extremely careful. What starts out looking like a friendly casual conversation may become something else, so it’s important to have the advice of counsel before engaging in conversation with a government agent. All you need to do is let them know that you would prefer to contact your attorney before speaking with them, and they will honor that request.

If you’re under investigation, it’s also critical not to talk to anyone else about the case except of course your lawyer and your lawyer’s staff. There are many dangers in talking to anyone. One is the possibility of being charged with obstruction of justice. If someone claims you tried to influence him or her, that’s a problem. Also, anyone you spoke to can be subpoenaed. Anything you said will potentially come out in court, and it may be embellished a little in the telling. The safest thing is not to say anything at all.

There are three categories of interest to grand juries. Besides targets, there are subjects and witnesses. A witness is someone who may have knowledge of what happened, but did not participate. However, there are times when a witness can become a target of an investigation by saying the wrong thing during an interview. Or the agents may not have known the extent of a witness’ involvement, and after an interview may start viewing the witness as a knowing participant in the crime under investigation. A subject is in between a target and a witness. That is, the investigators don’t yet know exactly how the subject is involved in a case – they may be involved, or they may merely have information to provide. This is where the advice of counsel is crucial. Preventing a subject from becoming a target is always the goal.

The grand jury returns indictments charging people with crimes. A prosecutor can issue a subpoena requiring you to appear before a grand jury to answer questions or present evidence. In Federal court, grand jury proceedings are closed to the public. The only persons who are allowed in the grand jury are the prosecutor, the witness and the court reporter. Believe it or not, even the witness’ lawyer is not allowed to accompany them inside. The lawyer must wait outside of the room, where he can be available to consult with the witness at any time.

Receiving a grand jury subpoena is a very serious matter, whether you are a target, subject or witness. There is only one thing to do if you are served with one – contact an attorney immediately. It is not a good idea to just show up on the date and time of your appearance without any idea what the matter is about. Your attorney can communicate with the prosecutor, obtain information and advise you on how it needs to be handled.
You can be arrested only if a grand jury has returned an indictment against you. If you’ve received a target letter, a visit from federal agents, been served with a grand jury subpoena or been indicted, it’s critical that you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. If you or a loved one are facing white-collar charges, we can help. Please contact us as soon as possible and let us go to work for you!

Written by Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

For 34 years, I have provided both State- and Federal-Level representation for those facing charges ranging from wire fraud, mortgage fraud, and healthcare fraud to identity theft, drug trafficking, money laundering, murder, DUI, domestic violence and numerous other criminal charges. In every case, it is my commitment to one-on-one service and support that has separated the Law Offices of Barry M. Wax from other criminal defense firms. When it comes to your future, you need a strong defense and the ability to make the right choices and regain control of your life.