What to do after a DOJ investigation

Presentation: What is the DOJ?

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is a department of the United States government whose mission is to enforce federal laws, defend the United States against violations of law, provide public safety, seek sanctions for unlawful conduct and to ensure the “fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”

The DOJ contains many agencies within its organizational structure, including the Antitrust Division, Criminal Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and Tax Division, as a few examples.

If the DOJ is investigating you or your business, it’s important to understand what’s at stake, how investigations work, what to expect, and how to prepare a defense from the DOJ when they come to strike.

The DOJ Preliminary Investigation Process

Often, individuals are unaware that the DOJ is investigating them until one of the following events occurs: (1) a federal agent shows up at their door; (2) the recipient receives a target letter; or (3) the individual receives a subpoena to appear before a grand jury.

If federal agents show up at your door, usually with a search warrant, do not release any information. While it is true that you may only be a witness in the investigation, it is always safe to assume that you are a target and therefore must protect your rights by remaining silent until that you retain a defense attorney from the DOJ.

Targeted letters are sent by the DOJ and contain information that informs the individual that they are the target of a federal investigation for allegedly violating one or more criminal laws. Receiving a target letter is usually a good indicator that an indictment will follow. Additionally, individuals may discover that they are under investigation by the DOJ upon receipt of a grand jury subpoena, which indicates that the individual is either the target of the investigation. , or that he has knowledge of the crime. If any of the above situations occur, it is critical that you take action to retain the legal services of a federal DOJ defense attorney as soon as possible.

The DOJ’s Investigative Powers

The DOJ has broad investigative powers to analyze the conduct of individuals and businesses for violations of federal law, especially criminal offenses. The following are examples of crimes the DOJ has the authority to investigate and prosecute:

  • Bank fraud;

  • Mail and wire fraud;

  • Aggravated identity theft;

  • Make false statements to the government;

  • Make fraudulent claims in connection with a government program;

  • counterfeit;

  • Cyber ​​or other Internet crimes;

  • Attempt and conspiracy;

  • Tax evasion;

  • hate crimes;

  • PPP loan fraud;

  • child pornography;

  • Illegal distribution of illicit drugs; and

  • Violations under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Violations of criminal statutes can result in devastating penalties such as criminal fines, restitution orders, permanent injunctions, probation, loss of license, inability to do business with the government in the future, impairment to reputation and imprisonment.

On certain occasions, the DOJ will coordinate its investigation with other federal agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), as well as state and local. enforcement authorities. This underscores the importance of knowing how to respond to a DOJ investigation in order to protect your freedom, your reputation, and your future.

“If the DOJ investigates you, the charges will likely be criminal, and therefore the government will seek criminal penalties and jail time. The Department of Justice may also share the details of your case with other federal agencies in certain cases, thereby exposing you to additional liability under other federal laws. Retaining the services of a lawyer to liaise and negotiate on your behalf can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case, including reducing jail time and criminal penalties. – Dr. Nick Oberheiden, founding lawyer of Oberheiden PC

Determine your status in a DOJ investigation

The government may consider you a “witness”, a “subject” or a “target”. If you are considered a “witness”, the government believes that you have knowledge or have access to knowledge relating to the commission of the crime under investigation. The government expects witnesses to assist in the investigation by disclosing this information to the best of their ability; witnesses are usually not charged for the crime(s).

If the government views the individual as a “subject,” the government has reason to believe that the individual is connected to the crime; therefore, the subjects can be charged with the crime(s). If the individual is considered a “target”, there is substantial evidence linking the individual to the crime. Targets can expect to receive an indictment for the alleged crime(s).

One of the most stressful parts of an ongoing federal investigation is not knowing your status in the investigation. It may sometimes be possible for your lawyer to determine your role in the investigation by reviewing the documents you have received, such as the subpoena and by reviewing the applications. However, this cannot be guaranteed. It is therefore essential to proceed as if you were a target by taking the following measures: retain the services of a federal defense attorney; review the details of the documents you have received from the government; know your constitutional rights and know when to use them; keep your case confidential; and cooperate with federal authorities. These steps are explained in more detail in the next section.

How to Respond to a DOJ Survey

As soon as you learn that the DOJ is investigating you, there are important steps you can take to protect yourself. A good defense is often bolstered by quick action.

The first step in responding to a DOJ investigation is to seek out and select a federal DOJ defense attorney. The attorney should have extensive experience in the federal process, criminal prosecutions, grand jury investigations, criminal defense strategies, and the law that the alleged crime violates.

Your attorney can help you accumulate documentation that would help your DOJ defense. Never destroy evidence, as this would be detrimental to your cause. Listen to your lawyer who is there to help you. Some of the tasks your attorney will undertake include preparing a personalized DOJ defense strategy to fight federal criminal charges, negotiating with the DOJ on your behalf, and seeking a settlement or other outcome that favors most your case.

It is important to carefully review any documents sent to you, such as a subpoena. Your attorney can help you understand the document and guide you through complying with its terms, including any deadlines. Failure to meet the time limits stated in the subpoena could result in additional criminal penalties such as contempt charges.

If you have already been charged, then your attorney can help you decide whether to plead guilty, ask to have the indictment dismissed, or ask for your right to a jury trial and challenge the indictment. .

In addition, individuals must have a solid understanding of the constitutional rights applicable to them in the context of a criminal investigation and proceeding. This includes understanding when to assert your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination or determining whether any evidence seized by law enforcement officers should be suppressed under the Fourth Amendment.

Responding to a federal investigation also requires that you keep the details of your case confidential. Do not share or disclose information to anyone except in the presence of your attorney and with the advice of your attorney. Law enforcement or government personnel will sometimes attempt to contact individuals who are part of the investigation. However, this can be dangerous because anything you say can and will be used against you. Everything about your case should be kept confidential, which includes refraining from online discussions and social media posts.

Finally, the person under investigation by the DOJ should strive to maintain a cooperative attitude with federal authorities. Cooperation can lead to reduced sentences and fines because it demonstrates a willingness to work with the government. It also helps your attorneys negotiate a favorable settlement with the Crown, if it’s in your best interest.


The DOJ is a federal department within the US government whose mission is to enforce federal laws and prosecute those who violate its provisions. The Department of Justice strives to defend the United States against domestic and foreign threats and works every day to ensure justice and protect society. The Department has many sub-agencies within its organizational structure that each have different objectives.

It is important to be proactive when responding to a DOJ investigation. This includes obtaining the assistance of an experienced defense attorney, keeping your case confidential, accumulating documents to build your defense of the DOJ, and maintaining an attitude of negotiation and cooperation.

Oberheiden PC © 2022 National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 63

Pamela W. Robbins