I want to re-visit a couple of topics which I have covered a few months ago. They are your Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. Most people are readily familiar with the Fifth Amendment's preclusion of the government forcing you to be a witness against yourself, the popularly phrased right to remain silent. The Sixth Amendment is equally important in that it provides for the right to the assistance of counsel in a criminal prosecution. As I have stated previously, these rights from your perspective, as the subject of an investigation, begins at the initial contact. I thought that today i would give some real examples of how this works in your favor to assert these as the law calls it ab initio (at the beginning).
It is always a joy to me when I get contacted at the very beginning of an investigation. I can start working for my client in ways that are not available later in the prosecution.
No identities nor time-frames are included in the following examples, except to say they have happened within the last ten years of my practice.
I had a young man come to see me who had been contacted by the FBI. He told me the situation and what the Bureau was demanding of him. That he was not involved in the crimes they were investigating but they were harassing him as if he was. He retained me to represent him, which immediately put me between him and the agents. I gave him an Assertion of Rights Form which I have created and provide to clients. This form tells the investigator that my client does not choose to talk to them, that they are to contact me and they are not to have any further direct contact with my client. The FBI Special Agents came back, he presented the form to them. They left and called me to see if I, in fact, represented him.
After confirming that I did and telling them to leave him alone they never bothered him again. They did come out one more time and peek through the windows of his house. Once I learned of this I called the U.S. Attorney and threatened to report them to the Office of Professional Responsibility if any such conduct ever happened again. It didn't. Some time later I learned that this client was killed in an accident. As it had been a long time, I inquired if he had had any further problems from the FBI and was told no, that after I did what I did he and his family were left alone. I was gratified that he did not have to deal with their nonsense the last days of his life. This client is just one example of this, but I have had this experience with clients several times. Just the hiring of knowledgeable counsel was enough to stop the frightening experience of dealing with federal law enforcement and letting the experienced attorney be the buffer.
Sometimes there is no way to stop the prosecution from occurring. The early retention of the right counsel is just as important because it may be possible to influence the severity of the prosecution by having discussions with the investigator and the prosecuting attorney. These discussions can result in lesser or more favorable charges being brought than would have happened had the person not been represented. This mitigation is extremely important as it can impact the final resolution of the case. A good beginning generally results in a good ending. Good is, of course, a relative term. But while there may be a conviction at the end, the sentence which follows it is no less important. A shorter sentence or even probation may be obtained by what is done at the beginning of a case.
So as I have stated, when contacted: Exercise your right to remain silent and exercise your right to speak with an attorney prior to having any "conversation" with any law enforcement agent.