What To Do First If Federal Agents Come to Your Home With a Search Warrant
Having federal agents come to your home to execute a search warrant is an extremely terrifying and stressful experience. Not only is it an invasion of your privacy, it is a forceful display of the federal government’s tremendous power and authority. Federal agents who unexpectedly show up on your doorstep with a search warrant and root through your personal belongings are hoping to frighten you into saying or doing something they can use against you.
If you think you may be involved in a federal investigation, either as a target or subject, you are probably wondering what you should do if federal agents show up at your door with a search warrant. Even if you have already had your home searched by the FBI or another federal agency, you can find helpful information here about what you can and should do after the search has been conducted. We strongly recommend that you consult our defense team at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today to learn more about how we can protect your rights and guide you through a federal investigation.
What is a Federal Search Warrant?
A federal search warrant is a warrant issued by a federal judge or magistrate authorizing federal agents to search a specified location, person or vehicle for evidence – even if the occupant does not consent to the search – and to confiscate any evidence they find during the search. In order to obtain a warrant to search your home, the federal agents or prosecutor investigating you for a federal crime must present a written affidavit to a judge detailing the reasons why they believe you committed the alleged crime and why they believe evidence of the crime may be found at your home. Essentially, they are asking the court for permission to search your property to look for evidence that you are guilty of the alleged federal crime they are investigating.
If agents from the FBI or another federal agency show up at your door with a search warrant, that means the federal government believes you were involved in or have information about a federal crime and the agents were able to convince a judge that there is evidence of the alleged crime in your home. You can assume that federal agents conducting a search of your home means there is some kind of federal criminal investigation already underway and that the government has probable cause to believe that you played a key role in the alleged criminal activity or have information that may prove useful to investigators. Usually, the government will use a subpoena instead of a search warrant to collect information about an alleged crime committed by someone else, so if federal agents are searching your home, you are most likely a target or subject of an ongoing federal investigation.
What Happens Next?
A search warrant will contain detailed information about what the agents are authorized to search and what they can take from your home. This may include anything from documents or files to your computer and cell phone. You will want to obtain and carefully review a copy of the search warrant and ensure compliance with the terms of the warrant, but you should avoid saying anything else to the agents. Anything you say to federal agents can be used against you, and even if you are trying to explain that you didn’t commit a crime, it is easy for statements you make during a search to be misconstrued when brought up in court at a later date.
After executing a search of your home, the agents will go through everything they collected looking for evidence of a crime, which can take time. During this time, it is in your best interest to retain the services of a knowledgeable federal defense attorney who can get to work on your case, try to get your belongings back and begin gathering evidence that proves your innocence. The worst thing you can do when faced with a federal investigation and potential criminal charges is to sit back and wait to see what happens. This kind of mild response will almost always result in a worse outcome for you.
Follow These Steps to Protect Your Rights
Consult a federal criminal defense attorney immediately.
Having federal agents come to your home with a search warrant is one of the many different ways you may find out that you are under investigation by the federal government. If this happens to you, having a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer with experience handling federal cases on your side is critical for several reasons. Not only can a skilled attorney use his experience and knowledge of the federal criminal system to gain some insight into what charges you may be facing, if any, he can also communicate with the federal agents and the Assistant U.S. Attorney or the federal prosecutor investigating the alleged crime, on your behalf.
Armed with even a limited amount of information about what the government is looking for, your attorney can get to work on your case right away and potentially put you in a better position if the federal prosecutor decides to pursue charges against you. Often, in federal cases, the government investigates suspected criminal activity for months or even years before executing a search warrant, making an arrest or filing charges. By hiring an attorney as quickly as possible, you can level the playing field and give your attorney more time to get up to speed on your case.
Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, your attorney may be able to convince the federal prosecutor that you should not be prosecuted at all. Or, if the prosecutor does move forward with the charges, your attorney may be able to work it out so that you can report to court on your own, rather than being arrested and dragged out of your home or workplace in handcuffs. Whatever your specific situation happens to be, being proactive and hiring a criminal defense lawyer to represent you is the single most important thing you can do to protect your rights in the face of a federal criminal investigation.
Collect as much information as you can.
The federal agents will most likely give you a copy of the search warrant and you may also have their business cards or at least their names and the name of the agency they are affiliated with. The FBI is the main investigative agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, but there are a number of other federal agencies that may be involved in a federal criminal investigation, such as the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). As soon as possible after the search is over, write down everything you can remember about what the agents said, did and took. This information can help your attorney determine what the agents were looking for and how to proceed with your case. If you have the agents’ contact information, your attorney can make contact directly and open a line of communication with the Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Don’t talk to anyone else about the case except your attorney.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to only speak to your attorney about your case. No one else. You are probably under a great deal of stress and you may feel the need to talk to someone about what you are going through. Unfortunately, you have no idea who could be cooperating with the government in its investigation against you, and even if you have a family member or friend you trust implicitly, anything you say to that person could make its way back to the federal agents and prosecutor and end up damaging your case. If you have any questions about your case or if you need to speak to someone about any matter pertaining to the alleged criminal activity, speak to your attorney.
Contact Our Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers for Legal Help
Search warrants are an appealing investigative tool for the federal government because they allow agents to immediately seize evidence related to alleged criminal activity while also sending a clear message that an investigation is underway. Federal agents executing a search warrant are looking for incriminating evidence that proves that the person engaged in criminal activity or violated a federal law. It should be obvious to you then, that these agents are not on your side, nor are they there to help you. They are there to uncover evidence of a crime that they can then use to pursue criminal charges against you.
That is one of the main reasons it is so important to know your rights ahead of time, so you know what to do if federal agents come to your home with a search warrant and how you can protect your rights and freedom in the hours and days after the search has been completed. For more information about federal investigations, target letters, search warrants and defending against federal criminal charges, or to schedule a free consultation with our top-rated federal defense attorneys, contact Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today.