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What to do if you are under criminal investigation

It is a critical moment: strangers show up at your door or your office and "need to ask a few questions." It seems like a harmless enough request, though you may wonder who they are and why they are speaking to you. Many people do not realize how dangerous this situation is. If this happens, you are likely under investigation for a crime. How you respond in the next few moments could affect the rest of your life.

Whether you have done anything criminal or not, investigators are looking for any charges they can bring against you to show guilt. This includes what you say when they speak with you. You do not, in fact, have to say anything at all. Make sure to do these three things if you are in this situation:

1. Exercise your right to silence.

Even if the investigators pressure you or try to talk you into answering questions, do not speak to them. Let them know you are exercising your right to silence and do not want to answer any questions without a lawyer. Then, do not make any other statements.

Why is this so important? Some of the information they want might seem harmless or unrelated to anything criminal. However, they usually ask questions for which they already know the answers because they are looking for lies or admittances of fault in your story, which could be used against you.

2. Immediately consult a lawyer.

As soon as possible after you learn of the investigation, get in contact with a skilled criminal defense attorney. Never speak to the investigators or answer their questions without legal help and representation on your side.

Why is this so important? An experienced lawyer will have a deep knowledge of criminal law and understand the tactics that investigators are using. They can examine your case and build up a strong defense to combat any convictions brought against you. A criminal record can stay with you for a lifetime, so it is important to avoid it at all costs.

3. Do not change, shred or delete any documents.

It's understandable to be scared or worried if you are being investigated. There may be a temptation to get rid of information that could look bad on your part. Do not do this. Even though digital documents seem to be erased forever once deleted, it can be shown when they were deleted. Do not try to interfere with any possible evidence of the case.

Why is this so important? It is illegal to destroy potential evidence or documents that are related to an investigation. On top of being investigated, you could now be charged with obstruction of justice for destroying documents. Talk to a lawyer about your case and let them fight for your rights. Just because a document might seem to work against you does not mean you will automatically be found guilty of a crime.