Executing DC Federal Search Warrants at Corporations
In some cases, during the process of a criminal investigation, law enforcement may find it necessary to conduct a search of a corporation. Executing DC federal search warrants at corporations is an extensive undertaking, often involving dozens of law enforcement personnel. If you believe that your company may be the subject of a warrant, consider reaching out to an attorney for help dealing with the particulars of compliance.
What is a Search Warrant?
A search warrant is a an order signed by a judge that authorizes law enforcement or other enforcement agencies to enter a specific place in search of evidence at a particular offense during a defined time frame. For example, some search warrants authorize the search of a place of business for documents, electronic records, notes, reports, and more materials that might lead to evidence linked to the commission of a crime. To get a search warrant approved by a judge, the attached affidavit must:
- Properly assert that there is probable cause that a crime was committed; and
- Evidence or information leading to evidence of the crime may be present at the site to be searched.
Scope of a Search Warrant in a Corporation
The scope of a search warrant at a DC corporation depends on the specific warrant. A corporation may or not be limited to particular sites, for example, such as a single person’s office or a single department. Usually, they are limited to particular physical sites, but might also include the seizure of emails, text communications, phones, other electronic devices, et cetera.
Confidentiality as a concept does not necessarily bear on the scope of a search warrant. Just because a company labels something confidential does not mean it is not subject to a search warrant. Privileged documents such as documents that relate to communications between an attorney and their client may limit the scope of the search warrant, but most other communications will be within the confines of a warrant.
How a Corporation Should Respond to a Search Warrant
When executing the search warrant, one goal of law enforcement is often to interview employees while the search is ongoing, when they are surprised and disoriented. Everyone at the corporation should understand that they have the absolute right to speak to law enforcement or the absolute right to remain silent.
A corporation can inform its employees and executives as to the appropriate actions when a search warrant is executed. Employees should be informed that when a search warrant is executed, it is important to not get in the way of law enforcement officers. No one should ever alter, destroy, hide, or otherwise change any information that is sought. That is obstruction of justice.
Hiring the Right DC Attorney to Deal With a Corporate Search Warrant
The role of a lawyer is to be present and make sure that the scope of a warrant is not exceeded and make certain that people are not being unduly pressured. The lawyer should ensure that items are not deleted or otherwise altered while the search warrant is being executed and monitor the process to make certain the search is being done in a legal and professional way. When law enforcement is executing a DC federal search warrant at a corporation, an experienced attorney could help protect the company’s rights and interests without obstructing the ongoing investigation.