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David Benowitz On Being the Subject of an Investigation

DC criminal defense attorney David Benowitz answers questions about being the subject of a criminal investigation.

If someone knows that they are part of a criminal investigation, but they haven’t been charged yet, what’s the value of hiring an attorney?

: First, an attorney can get started on investigating for you, to preserve evidence that can help you, to understand the scope of what the government is investigating, and to keep you from placing yourself into a worse position.

For example, if you know you’re being investigated, the last thing you want to do is start talking to everybody about it. The last thing you want to do is call the FBI and say, “Am I being investigated?” You don’t want to do those kinds of things and that’s why people get themselves in trouble when they try to take things into their own hands and talk their way out of a situation. So, when you have an attorney who can be a buffer between you and the people who, potentially, are investigating you, you’re a lot better off.

What can happen is when people think they’re being investigated and, in fact, they are being investigated, it puts them under great stress. When people are under stress, they tend to do things they wouldn’t normally do or take actions they would not normally take. They may, for example, say, “Oh, let me go and, even though I didn’t do anything wrong, I’m going to take all of the documents out of my office and dispose of them.” That’s the last thing that you want to do. Now is not the time to take that kind of action. Lawyers can prevent people from taking action that they wouldn’t normally do, but that they might do when they’re under stress, whether they’re involved in something or not.

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