What Should I Do If I’m Under Investigation For A Federal Crime In San Diego, California?

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Call an attorney immediately! The federal government has access to many resources and the best way to begin protecting yourself during an investigation is to hire an experienced federal defense attorney. 

Once in the cross-hairs of a federal investigation, you will want an attorney who can reach out to the prosecutor’s office to assert your rights. 

Federal Investigations Can Be Intimidating

Federal investigators can take months or even years to gather information and evidence if they suspect someone has committed a crime. Their investigative resources are vast, as cases may be driven by one of several agencies, or multiple agencies working together, such as:

  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
  • Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • United States Postal Service (USPS)
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

What Types Of Crimes Are Deemed Federal Offenses?

Many crimes violate both state and federal statutes. They are defined as federal offenses when they cross state boundaries, involve a federal agency or occur over the internet. Examples include:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Bank robbery
  • Sex crimes
  • Internet pornography
  • Human trafficking
  • Drug crimes
  • Firearms offenses
  • Terrorism
  • White collar crimes, such as securities fraud and embezzlement
  • Identity theft
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Insurance fraud
  • Mail fraud
  • RICO or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act cases

Did You Receive A “Target Letter?”

After federal agents complete their investigation, they present their case to the U.S. attorney, along with a list of suspects and witnesses. The U.S. attorney drafts so-called “target letters” for those the government believes to be involved in the crime. It is essential that you do not ignore this document, which typically only includes a vague description of the case, as well as a request for an interview.

If you receive a target letter, your first step should be to contact an experienced federal defense attorney to begin your case. Doing so has immediate benefits, as law enforcement can no longer contact you directly. All communication must go through your attorney. That means officers can’t show up at your home or workplace.

Having a knowledgeable lawyer is vital before talking to investigators. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that agents can lie to a suspect during an investigation. However, the U.S. attorney cannot lie to your lawyer or the court. Having legal representation, in effect, levels a very uneven and unfair process.

Defense Strategies For Avoiding Or Reducing Charges

If you are the target of a federal investigation, it’s crucial to begin your defense as soon as possible. Your lawyer will fight to keep you from being detained while your case goes through the justice system.

In the event you receive a target letter, your attorney will contact prosecutors to ascertain whether you are the primary focus of the investigation or they want your assistance. In that case, what does that help require, and how would it benefit you?

Your lawyer may also recommend that you agree to help the prosecution under a limited immunity agreement, known as a “proffer.” Many times, these pacts mean you can trade information in exchange for charges being dropped or reduced.

Harsh Consequences Can Result From Federal Convictions

U.S. sentencing guidelines for federal offenses are extremely complicated. In many cases, judges have little leeway and must impose mandatory minimum sentences, which can be lengthy, especially for Class A and Class B felonies. Some cases can result in probation or house arrest. Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Prisons provides specific programs that can reduce prison time.

We understand how these cases work. Our firm has a successful track record defending clients in federal cases in Southern California and San Diego County. We are diligent in finding ways to reduce penalties or avoid charges altogether. In the event you choose to fight charges in court, we will use our extensive trial experience to secure the best possible outcome.


The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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