Whenever I have a consultation with a businessman or professional who has been contacted by the FBI or some kind of law enforcement, the conversation always comes around to this question:
Won’t it look bad if I hire a criminal defense lawyer?
The short answer is no. Simply, firmly, no.
To clarify, the reasons are many, but here are some of them:
- Good cops and good prosecutors know that smart businessmen always consult a lawyer if they are contacted by law enforcement. In private, FBI agents are always amazed that so many people just go ahead and answer questions without first seeking the advice of an attorney.
- Lying to a federal agent is in itself a crime. (See 18 United States Code §1001.) It’s super important to either tell the whole truth or simply refuse to answer questions. You are much better off getting a criminal defense lawyer to help you decide whether to talk, than to take the risk of answering in a way that make the feds think you are lying.
- Even if you tell the full truth, what you divulge may contradict something you’ve declared in the past. This often comes up when someone tells the truth to an FBI agent about an asset or income, but a prior tax return treated the asset or income differently.
- White-collar cases do not develop quickly. Taking a week or two to consult with a lawyer will not piss off the government, nor will it change the outcome of the investigation.