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What you say (or don’t say) to federal agents can lead to charges

When people talk about breaking the law, they mostly focus on state statutes, like speed limits or laws against shoplifting. However, some individuals will face prosecution not from state government entities but the federal government.

Numerous circumstances can lead to federal investigations and possibly to prosecution. All too often, those under investigation by federal agencies inadvertently cause their own criminal charges through what they say to investigators during an interview. Even when you are not under arrest, what you say to federal investigators could directly lead to criminal charges

What you say or don’t say can hurt your case

The federal government makes good use of the False Statements Accountability Act of 1996 in investigations and criminal cases. Since 1996, there has been a federal statute on the books criminalizing the act of providing inaccurate or misleading information to federal investigators, as well as the act of withholding information with a direct correlation to the investigation.

Individuals who don’t understand this rule or how strictly the federal government enforces it could easily make mistakes when interacting with federal law enforcement agents. If you make a statement that the government can prove is a falsehood, if you omit information they can prove you knew or if you contradict yourself by providing different details at various points in an interrogation, your words may run afoul of the False Statements Accountability Act.

A significant number of individuals facing federal charges do not face charges for a specific crime but rather for how they comport themselves during interviews and interrogations conducted by federal authorities. To bring charges under False Statements Accountability Act, the government must show that someone knowingly and intentionally made a voluntary statement that they knew was false.

Those under investigation need to know the law and their rights

Learning that you are the subject of a federal investigation is downright frightening. You may worry about what the investigation likely means for your future. Rather than simply complying with requests by federal investigators, you can better protect yourself by learning about the laws that apply to the investigation, the laws they alleged you may have violated and your rights when subject to federal investigation or criminal charges.

Learning more about common causes of federal criminal cases can protect those subject to an investigation.