This is Part 1 of a four-part series on the steps to take if you are served a federal subpoena.
I’m often asked, how can I, as a criminal defense attorney help an individual or a business when they do need to respond to a federal subpoena? It’s a really critical role that a good criminal defense attorney plays.
First and foremost, you want to reach out immediately and you want to narrow the scope.
Oftentimes, federal agents and us attorneys, they’re busy. Maybe they’re in a different jurisdiction, they’re in a different state and they ask a local jurisdiction to send out and they send out a blanket request for as much information as they can. They may not know everything they’re looking or what you have. They just know that somehow your business has tangentially or somehow unbeknownst to you, come in contact with the target of what they’re focused on or who the person whom they’re focused on. And so for that, the first thing I would do is I reach out and I start a conversation about what it is they’re looking for exactly. And you want to be very specific. So, I’m very experienced at that and I know how to do that.
After doing that, then we’ll put together a team on how to respond. And so we want to be very careful in how we do that. We don’t want to provide more information than is necessary for obvious reasons.
You might run afoul of other federal laws or other privacy, state laws, and you also don’t want to share personal, private information of your client base or others that you do business with if you don’t need to. But you also want to comply with the subpoena as quickly as you can, because you want to get this problem in the rearview mirror. It’s probably interrupting your business in your life. And so that’s part of the job of a good experienced criminal defense attorney.
And then as you put this team together, you want to be very careful about who you trust in your business to do that, if it’s not you. And you want to be mindful of the fact that even though you’re just responding to document production, let’s say, your footprint is everywhere. Your digital footprint in this case is everywhere.
At some point if the federal government were to come back and actually seize your computers, they could do a forensic mapping of your computer system and find out all the places you went and where you kept documents. Well, unbeknownst to you, you might be accidentally running a foul of the way you keep documents or records or you might actually have the government start finding out things that you didn’t necessarily think the government needed to know about. They weren’t necessarily illegal, but you’re just inviting trouble.
So you need a clear strategy from the beginning when you meet with your management team on how you’re going to collect these documents, where you’re going to simulate them and how you’re going to get them over to the government.
A good attorney will do a good job of finding out the exact deadlines, the specifics that government is looking for, and make sure that once that’s over that there’s an agreement that the investigation is over.
In other words, you want to find out at the very beginning, all the things the government expects to get from you, what they need from you, and then you want to limit that and shut that down so you can get back to focusing on your personal life and your business. That’s just a small snapshot of all the different ways we can help you.
If you do find yourself in a situation where the government has sent you a subpoena or the government has asked you to produce things, in person or, or otherwise. If you need help with this, please reach out to us. We’ve been here for 20 years. We know exactly how to handle this. Thank you.