Criminal Investigation Lawyer NYC
The New York City Police Department and local police departments are not the only law enforcement agencies empowered to conduct criminal investigations in New York. Some other federal, state and local authorities that investigate possible crimes include:
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
- The Office of the State Attorney General (OAG)
- The Office of the New York State Inspector General (OIG)
- The Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG)
- The New York City Department of Investigation (DOI)
- S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General
- The New York State Police
And these are just a few of federal, state and local investigative agencies, many of which have overlapping authority. Some of these law enforcement agencies are narrowly focused on specific types of crime, while others have broad authority to investigate a range of alleged crimes. Attracting the attention of any of these law enforcement agencies is bad news, because criminal charges often, though not always, follow.
Many New Yorkers who know or suspect that they are under criminal investigation take a “wait-and-see” approach, hoping that charges will not be filed by a prosecutor. That is a serious mistake, as the period of investigation offers opportunities for a target of an investigation. The safest course of action is to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you believe that you are or may be under investigation.
Advantages of Hiring an Attorney While Under Criminal Investigation
A New York criminal defense attorney can help guide you through an investigation with a strategy to protect your rights, preventing you from unwittingly helping investigators build a case against you. An experienced advocate may be able to mitigate the charges or penalties, or even avoid criminal charges entirely. The longer you wait to seek representation of a criminal defense attorney, the more likely it is that you will harm your case.
Talk to a Lawyer before Talking to Investigators
If you’re under investigation, you may unintentionally become the best source of information that can be used against you. For example, you may not fully understand that:
- You have a right to decline to answer police or investigator questions
- You can seriously hurt your case by offering an explanation, even if true or valid
- Seemingly harmless information may be damaging when combined with other evidence
When you retain a criminal defense attorney to protect your rights throughout the investigative process, your attorney should:
- Begin a counter-investigation to avoid charges
- Provide a buffer between you and investigators
- Ensure that you understand and exercise your rights
- Advise you as to when you should or should not speak with investigators
You May Be Able to Avoid Criminal Charges
When a criminal investigation is underway and charges have not yet been filed, it may be possible to avoid charges altogether. Unfortunately, targets of investigations often attempt to avoid charges by offering elaborate explanations to police or investigators.
More often than not, these explanations do more harm than good—whether they are true or fabricated. Even in the best case scenario, the investigator may not be ultimate decision-maker as to whether or not to prosecute.
Generally, the best opportunity to avoid charges will be for your attorney to speak with the police or investigator, present exculpatory and/or contextual evidence on your behalf and point out weaknesses in the case. It is usually the District Attorney who will ultimately decide whether or not to file charges and which crimes to charge.
Your Attorney Can Gather Evidence to Defend You Against Criminal Charges
Whether you retain a criminal defense lawyer during an investigation or after you have been charged with a crime, your attorney will conduct their own investigation, assemble evidence on your behalf and speak with witnesses who may impact the outcome of your case. However, criminal investigations may take many months. That means that by the time charges are filed, evidence may be lost and investigators may have spent a significant amount of time developing relationships with key witnesses.
The sooner you hire a criminal defense lawyer, the better opportunity that attorney will have to build a strong defense for you.
The Pitfalls of Delaying Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you choose the “wait-and-hope” approach, you may:
- Inadvertently incriminate yourself
- Accidentally point investigators toward evidence that will be used against you
- Lose opportunities to gather evidence and interview witnesses in your defense
- Miss the chance to divert the prosecution before charges are filed
- Lose out on the opportunity to negotiate for lesser charges or a reduced sentence
If You are Under Criminal Investigation, Talk to an Attorney Right Away
In the early stages of a criminal investigation in New York, the outcome may be wide open. The sooner you put the case in the hands of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, the more opportunity you will have to work toward a favorable outcome.