Criminal offenses can be prosecuted at either the state or federal level depending on a number of factors, including the nature of the alleged crime, where the offense allegedly took place, and how the alleged crime was supposedly committed. Most crimes are handled by local police departments and county prosecutors, and the charges for such offenses are filed in the circuit court of the county in which they occurred. Circuit courts are part of the state court system.

Sometimes, however, an offense is charged as a federal crime. In such a case, the investigation is usually supervised by one or more federal agencies, and a United States Attorney files the charge in United States District Court. A federal offense is an extremely serious matter, and it is important to contact a qualified federal crimes defense attorney as soon you realize that federal charges are even remotely possible. The question, of course, is: How do you know when charges are becoming possible?

Federal Investigations Are Rarely Spontaneous

When a person is arrested for a state-level crime, he or she is often taken into custody by a local or municipal police officer on the scene. In the case of retail theft, for example, the officer may have been called by the manager of the store from which the person allegedly stole merchandise. Similarly, a drunk driving arrest is usually made subsequent to a traffic stop initiated by an officer who witnessed a person driving erratically. Local and city police departments do conduct focused investigations, but the bulk of their work involves responding to calls as they happen.

A federal investigation is often much different. Federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), are not generally set up to deal with spontaneous calls. Instead, these agencies tend to gather information and conduct directed investigations into patterns of behavior instead of isolated incidents—though there are exceptions. This means that federal agents may spend days, weeks, or months looking into a case before making any arrests.

Interview Requests and Letters

The initial stages of a federal criminal investigation will not usually be obvious to the target of the investigation. Federal investigators will typically start by quietly reviewing public records, municipal police reports, and other data that is widely available. However, things can change quickly, which takes us to the more overt indications that you are being investigated.

Once the investigation reaches a certain point, the investigators will usually begin making themselves known to the target. In many cases, this means that an investigator may show up at your door asking if you have a few minutes to talk. The investigator may appear relaxed and casual, but make no mistake: if a federal agent is at your home or workplace, things are extremely serious, and you should absolutely contact a lawyer right away.

The same is true if you begin receiving letters from federal agencies. Such letters usually ask that you come in to speak to a representative of the agency who sent the letter, though they may imply that you are being asked to come in as a potential witness—even if you are the actual target. Either way, you should never speak to a federal agent without an attorney present.

Contact an Illinois Federal Crimes Defense Attorney

If you suspect that you are being investigated by a federal agency in connection with any type of criminal activity, it is imperative to have an experienced Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer at your side. Call the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel at 312-270-0999 to schedule a free consultation regarding your situation today. We will work hard to protect your rights and best interests no matter how serious the case against you may be.


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