In today’s fast-paced world and unstable economy, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep one’s moral compass pointing true north. When was the last time you took a short cut in the interest of your pocket book? In business we sometimes call them perks, in an investigation they are called misdemeanors and felonies.
There are two types of investigations: covert, where you have no idea until the indictment and arrest takes place, and overt, where you are put on notice. When all things are considered, the covert actions could be viewed as an act of mercy, were you to become the target of a multiagency task force probe. Imagine a four-year investigation ending with a 59-count indictment…but let’s back up a few years.
It all started with the daily task of getting my mail. I loved looking at those overpriced catalogs, filled with items you just don’t need. Then, there it was staring at me, a letter from the Department of Justice notifying me of intercepted phone transmissions.
Next came the search warrants flooding my world like an unforgiving tsunami. Law enforcement was relentless and unforgiving as they stormed house after house, business after business, in their quest for evidence. No one was exempt – mother, son, daughter, friends, accountant. At some point I lost track of how many warrants had been served.
Then came the coup de grace. They raided my lawyer’s office. In their zealous attitude they made a mistake, failing to bring a special master, whom is needed when serving a warrant on a law office. The special master preserves attorney client privilege by inspecting what is being searched and deciding if it is relevant to the investigation.
For a brief moment I thought a conversion was taking place for my benefit. No such luck. Within the hour they were rifling through everything under the supervision of a retired judge.
From this experience, I had an epiphany. Both sides have rules to follow and I want to share some advice with you about those rules. This advice has served me well and has also prevented additional charges.
1. Do not let your emotions govern your actions
Most things are common sense. If you feel you are in a gray area, get legal advice. Don’t continue your actions especially if they could be interpreted as illegal…negligence is not a defense. With the Patriot Act in place, law enforcement has wide parameters.
2. Don’t approach co-defendants or witnesses
As the case proceeds and the players reveal themselves, don’t contact them in an inappropriate manner, and better yet, don’t approach them at all. Save yourself the agony of explaining why you are contacting co-defendants and witnesses. If a protective order has been issued, you could be found in contempt in addition to your other charges.
3. Do not destroy or tamper with evidence
If you are caught, your case could go from bad to much worse. If you are called before a grand jury and are unprepared to tell the truth, or if you see no benefit in testifying, invoke your Fifth Amendment right. Perjury can hold up to ten years, and you will be held to answer.
4. Try to avoid talking to investigators
My personal experiences have proven that talking to investigators is not productive. Remember, lying to an investigator is a felony under U.S. law. If they are persistent, have them submit their questions in writing, and respond in the same manner.
5. Retain an attorney and defer all contact to them
The best insurance that you won’t be constantly pursued by investigators is to retain an attorney and defer any contact to your legal representative. Make sure that your legal team has experience in the area that is specific to your case. Do not turn your attorney’s office into a confessional. A good attorney will only ask you questions pertinent to your defense. Always keep in mind an ethical attorney will never make promises about the outcome of your case. Assemble your legal team as soon as you can. This is not a time to be frugal; you can’t put a price on freedom.
If you really want to save some money, let me give my best advice. When you go to bed tonight, after the house is quiet and the only company you have are the creaks of a settling house and your thoughts, ask yourself the question you already know the answer to…has my moral compass been true north?
George Christie Jr. founded Felony Prison Consultants (FPC), to help those facing possible incarceration learn how to navigate the perilous path of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. A veteran incarceration expert, Christie gained critical knowledge and experience “on the inside” when he, himself, faced incarceration. He has advised the nation’s top criminal attorneys in hundreds of trials, working with the defense teams and advising his clients through every phase of the judicial process -- from indictment, trial and sentencing to coping with prison life and what to do when released.