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How do federal criminal investigations work?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Federal criminal investigations follow a specific process. Governmental agencies employ investigators who collect information and give it to the U.S. Attorney in your local district or the district where a case will be tried. Some of the investigators work for organizations and agencies such as:

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Homeland Security Investigation
  • The United States Secret Service
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

The investigators that come from these agencies go to the scene of a crime to collect evidence. This evidence is then used by the prosecutor to understand the case’s details more clearly. Usually, several agencies participate in evidence collection.

Do the investigators need a search warrant?

Yes, in most cases. The Fourth Amendment does state that police officers need probable cause to search a business or home, a person’s clothing or someone’s property. Most of the time, the police have to get a search warrant, but not always. For example, if the evidence is in plain sight or if they witness a crime take place, they might not need one to investigate or make the initial arrest.

What is the prosecutor’s role in a federal case?

The prosecutor’s job is to evaluate the merits of the case and decide if it should go before the Federal Grand Jury. They take into consideration circumstantial and direct evidence when making this decision.

Once the prosecutor decides that there is enough evidence to say that the individual did commit a specific crime, then they will present the case to the grand jury. This leads to an indictment, where the individual will learn about the charges that they face and has some other basic information.

As you can see, the basic investigation is fairly straightforward. It is important that you understand if you’re under investigation and take steps to protect yourself if so. Your attorney’s job is to make sure that you are fairly represented and that the case is not misrepresented in court by the prosecuting attorney. If there isn’t enough evidence, it may also be possible to have the potential charges dropped.


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