When a federal agent knocks on your door, your heart skips a beat. No matter whether you are guilty or innocent, having government authorities in your home, office, or personal space is intimidating.
Under the Constitution, you have specific legal rights when it comes to dealing with federal investigators. There are some situations where you must cooperate with the FBI, and others where you can invoke your constitutional rights and politely decline to assist investigators.
When You Should Cooperate With the FBI
If FBI employees arrive at your home with a search warrant, you must cooperate with their request. A search warrant gives them legal access to your home or office. If you resist allowing the FBI into your home, even if you have not physically seen the search warrant, they have the right to use physical force to subdue you. Do not act out against them.
Ask to call your lawyer. Then, take mental notes as they go through your belongings so that you can inform your lawyer of what went on before he arrives to help.
When You Should NOT Cooperate With the FBI
There are a few times when you should not cooperate with the FBI without your lawyer present. Many people fear not cooperating will make it look like there is something to hide. It won’t. Your constitutional rights protect you from having the government overreach their boundaries into your personal life.
Here are two important occasions when you can legally and politely decline cooperation with the FBI:
- When being asked to make a statement without a lawyer. Your constitutional rights protect you from having to make a statement. No matter how hard the FBI press, you should not try to make them happy by talking without having a criminal defense lawyer by your side. Although you might be innocent, the FBI is expert at digging in deep to get you to talk about your actions. If you speak, you can easily say something that appears to be incriminating—and what you say can be used against you. Don’t say anything except to demand access to your legal counsel.
- When your home is being searched without a warrant. Under the Fourth Amendment, the FBI is not legally entitled to search or seize your property without a warrant. That does not mean agents won’t try to get you to agree to their entry and search. You don’t have to let them into your home when they come knocking if they do not legally have a right to be there.
Although it is smart not to cooperate, it is important to remember to always act with respect when declining to provide an FBI agent with a statement or access to your belongings. This will avoid future conflict and keep you in good legal standing with the government handling your case.
If you were accused of a federal crime in Louisiana, you need a New Orleans criminal defense lawyer on your side to help guide you through the process. Putting a lawyer on your side right away is critical. Call us today to get started planning your defense right away.