The U.S. Federal Government has the power to investigate and prosecute a range of crimes.

Federal investigations are extensive. If government agents believe that a crime has been committed, they have virtually infinite resources available to uncover all of the evidence in the case. Federal investigators work quickly and methodically.

“This man is a very effective criminal defense attorney. I was charged but I never had to go to court because the case was thrown out thanks to his efforts. I was very worried because I didn’t know anyone who could confirm my location, but he was able to prove that I was innocent.”
Jason, CA

Federal investigators work in a number of different government agencies, such as:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

If an agency believes that it has enough evidence, the government will charge you with a crime. Federal charges are usually very serious, and sentences can range in excess of 20 years depending on the facts of the case.

Facing a federal investigation or a federal criminal charge can be a nervous and stressful time. If you or someone you love is under attention from federal law enforcement, it really can make it hard to feel like you can live your life.

It is important to protect yourself and work with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney that can work to build your defense and protect your constitutionally guaranteed rights.

First, let’s discuss more about how federal investigations work.

How Federal Investigations Work

Most crimes in the U.S. are actually state crimes. Crimes like DUI, robbery and assault are all prosecuted under the state laws of California.

los angeles federal defense lawyerHowever, in some cases, crimes can fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. For example, this might happen if the crime crosses state lines, is committed against a federal government employee or breaks a law passed by Congress.

If the government believes that a federal law might have been broken, it will assign a specialized agency to investigate. The agency’s officers (known as special agents) will collect evidence and can then:

  1. Make an arrest without obtaining a warrant.
  2. Make an arrest with a warrant.
  3. Wait to make an arrest because there is a chance they could collect more evidence.

In some cases, a federal grand jury can be impaneled to assist with an investigation. A grand jury is an impartial body of citizens from the community charged with investigating whether a crime has been committed. After reviewing evidence in a case, a grand jury typically does one of two things:

  1. Issues an indictment, which will lead to an arrest.
  2. Chooses to not issue an indictment.

If the grand jury chooses to not issue an indictment, it can continue investigating or close the case.

Do NOT Talk to Federal Investigators Without Talking to a Lawyer First

It’s common in “white collar” crimes cases for the government to spend years methodically building cases — subpoenaing evidence, interviewing witnesses and collecting data.

As part of that process, they might talk to people that weren’t really involved in the crime.

If you are visited by a federal investigator who has requested an interview, it is very important that you politely but firmly inform them that you have hired an attorney and would like to consult with the attorney first.


Let’s use a hypothetical example: Sam used to work for a company that he knew had been “cooking the books.” He was unhappy with the situation, but did anything his boss asked, because he knew how hard it would be to find another job.

After some time, Sam gets a new opportunity and leaves the company. The stress is over.

Years later, federal investigators knock at his door and ask if they can ask some questions. The agent seems like he doesn’t know much about the situation, and he asks a few questions that might hint to Sam’s involvement in the company’s fraud.

Caught off-guard by the sudden visit and wanting to just stay out of trouble, Sam says he doesn’t remember doing any of the things the agent mentions.

Sam might’ve just landed himself in hot water. Federal investigators often try to “play dumb” in interviews, and they usually know more than they’re letting on. They do this in order to get witnesses and interviewees to reveal more about the case.

If the federal agent knew that Sam was involved in committing fraud and Sam now said that he didn’t do anything, Sam could be in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 1001: Lying to a federal agent.

Now Sam could find himself in criminal trouble as a result of a quick, seemingly innocent misstep.

When you say that you’d like to speak with an attorney first, the federal agent might press you. “What do you have to hide?” “Why do you need to talk to an attorney?”

But the reality is that simply stating that you will first talk to an attorney might force the investigator to rethink whether your interview is really worth it. He might decline to speak from you at that point.

Should the agent want to continue the interview, by speaking with a federal defense attorney first, you’ll be prepared and more comfortable.

Areas of Practice

The Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend have proudly represented defendants and subjects of interest in federal criminal cases since 1984. We are based in the Los Angeles area but take cases nationwide.

Here are some of our practice areas:

Antitrust Violations

The leaders of a company cannot use use unethical or harmful means to gain the upper hand on the competition. Read more.

Child Pornography

Possession, reproduction or distribution of sexual images involving children is prosecuted aggressively by the Federal Government. Read more.

Drug Conspiracy

Importing, distributing or manufacturing a controlled substance like marijuana, methamphetamine or heroin can result in a drug conspiracy charge. Read more.

Drug Trafficking

The Federal Government sometimes engages in illegal wiretaps, overreaching surveillance techniques, search warrants and intimidation when pursuing drug trafficking cases. Read more.


In embezzlement cases, the prosecutor’s primary objective is often to seek restitution for the victim and not necessarily throw you in jail. Read more.

Identity Theft

With more business being conducted online, federal authorities have bolstered their efforts to crack down on identity theft cases. Read more.

Insider Trading

Insider trading is when someone receives investment information that is not available to the rest of the public and makes a decision based off that. Read more.

Internet Crimes

The Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend consider internet crimes as one of our practice focus areas, defending a range of federal internet crimes. Read more.

Internet Sex Crimes

As more and more people conduct their daily business online, there has been a rise in government prosecution of internet sex crimes. Read more.

IRS Defense

The IRS is notoriously ruthless when dealing with cases of suspected income tax fraud. Read more.

Money Laundering

Money laundering charges usually accompany other conspiracy-related charges. If charged with money laundering, it is important to know your rights and be ready to fight back. Read more.

Social Security Fraud

Social security fraud charges can come up if someone is suspected of stealing another person’s social security number or benefits. Read more.



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