Over the past twenty-five years, I've been involved in representing a lot of clients whose home, office or business was raided by the FBI. Usually when the FBI comes, they also bring in local law enforcement to control the scene. In other words, a lot of times they're going into the jurisdiction of a local law enforcement agency or sometimes they will use those police officers or sheriffs to assist them in securing the scene, and then they come in and typically do a search. If they're going to raid a location, they typically have a search warrant. After that, they'll secure any individuals that are in there and they will try to talk to them.
Examining the Evidence
A lot of times before they talk to them, they'll wait to see what they get and then say, look what we've got. We found this, this and this. Is this your stuff? Or if they're seizing a computer for example, they'll ask who owns the computer? Who's in control of the computer?
And then they'll be able to use that later once they have the computer checked whether it's forensically or they're just looking themselves to see what's been downloaded on the computer. If a person admits that it's their computer, nobody else used it, now they have evidence that whatever's on that computer is likely the person who admitted that that was their computer.
So, these FBI raids across the country – not just in Los Angeles where my main law firm is based out of — I've handled FBI cases in almost every state in the nation where the FBI comes in. They've already done some investigation – whether it be surveillance, talking to informants or whatever evidence they had that believes they're some sort of federal criminal activity afoot in the location that they raid, they will ten typically have a search warrant in hand and sometimes they have arrest warrants, or they just have the evidence to arrest the person.
They go in and they search the location. They arrest whoever they're going to arrest. They take statements and then whatever case they've built, they put whatever they find in the raid on the case. Whatever statements the get, they put as part of the evidence and they submit it to prosecutors. Usually if the FBI is involved – unless they kick the case down to the states – if the FBI's involved, they're gong to send the case to the federal prosecutors.
They're called Assisting United States Attorneys, and then the prosecutors will decide based on the evidence that the FBI has obtained from their raid. They're going to decide what, if any, charges will be filed against the targets of the raid.
Sometimes it takes some time. Sometimes I've seen the FBI go in, raid a location and not arrest anybody. Then the person comes to me or some other criminal defense attorney and says, why didn't they arrest us? A lot of times they're in the middle of an investigation and they don't have everything they need to indict the person or they want to get more evidence against a person or they want to get more people involved with the indictments. So, sometimes they'll just come in, do whatever it is they're doing and leave — seize things, take statements and leave.
Now you go to a criminal defense attorney and typically, I'm telling the client that we need to find out exactly what they got and then I can give you an idea of what they may or may not file against you, and then the next question is going to be, what other evidence do they have? In other words, can we glean anything by what's in the documents that were given.
Can we glean anything by what they give you or what questions they ask as to what evidence they might have that a crime is being committed and when they're going to prosecute you.
Developing a Defense Strategy
A lot of times what I do is have you get me the agent names. A lot of times they leave business cards or whatever documents they leave I can get it from that and I'll either talk to the FBI myself – the FBI agents who were part of the raid – or I'll find out if they have prosecutors who they have to answer to which makes it a whole lot easier for me because then I'll just go right to the prosecutors who are my colleagues on the other side, and then we'll sit down and formulate our defense strategy and see where we move from there.