The United States Constitution protects its citizens against unlawful government and police conduct. Under the exclusionary rule, courts can prevent the government from presenting unlawfully obtained evidence and statements at trial. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments can provide strong arguments for excluding evidence and dismissing cases. However, the accused has no constitutional right that he be informed of a pending government or police investigation where he is the target. Put simply, there is no constitutional right to know whether the government is conducting an investigation.
But why doesn’t the government provide notice? Well, the simple reason is that they don’t have to, however, there are other logical reasons:
- Releasing the info early may spoil the investigation.
- Police investigating a crime often do not want the target of the investigation to know what’s going on for fear the target will conceal or destroy evidence or influence witnesses.
- It makes the job easier.
- If the public knows about every investigation, there could be a lot of chatter and noise about the case that may lead to a lot of false leads. This often happens in highly publicized cases where law enforcement receives a great deal of information, but very little of it is credible or helpful.
- Just because police are conducting an investigation, doesn’t mean an arrest will be made or the target of their investigation will be charged with a crime. While this happens often, it is not always the case. Furthermore, innocent people are regularly accused of crimes and police, having the duty to investigate, sometimes find the allegations are false or the investigation is unfounded, and it goes no further.
- A danger to making the investigations public is that the accused could face personal, professional, and reputational harm based on allegations alone that cannot be proven. Because investigations can take months if not years, this person could be permanently harmed by allegations that months later are proven to be false by an investigation.
How do I know if I’m under an investigation?
You don’t. Law enforcement has no obligation to inform you that there is a pending investigation and often people don’t discover they were under investigation until after they’ve been arrested or indicted.
Are there signs I’m being investigated?
Yes, there are often indicators there is a pending investigation, however one or more indicators do not necessarily mean there is an active investigation:
- An officer from a government agency or law enforcement unexpectedly shows up at your house or place of work to question you. While it is possible you are not the subject or target of the investigation but rather a witness, it is also possible that law enforcement contacted you unannounced in an attempt to catch you off guard.
- Your friends or coworkers have been contacted by law enforcement asking about you. Often, the target of an investigation is the last to know. Some law enforcement agencies prefer to gather all information pertaining to the investigation prior to attempting to interrogate the accused. When this method is used, the accused is usually the last to know about the investigation.
- You receive an unexpected call, email, or social media communication from someone about something that may be incriminating. These types of investigative techniques are common in drug and white-collar investigations where an individual is cooperating with law enforcement. The individual gathers incriminating information by contacting the target without the target knowing that law enforcement is involved.
What can I do about an investigation?
You have the right to hire a lawyer to assist as soon as possible. The criminal defense attorney can assist in developing a plan to protect their client’s rights while the investigation is pending and advise the target on what to do and what not to do. Sometimes targets of investigations will take actions that will only make the case worse.
When is the best time to get a criminal defense attorney involved in an investigation?
Like planting a tree, the best time to hire a criminal defense attorney was a long time ago, but the next best time is immediately.
If you believe you or a loved one is the subject of a police or government investigation, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Berry Law.