How Long Can The Federal Government Investigate You?
If you are under a federal investigation, it may feel like it’s taking forever to get the answers you need. An agent may come to your home or place of business to speak with you, they may issue search warrants, or even send a subpoena from the grand jury. All this flurry of activity is frightening. It can tarnish your personal and business reputation. The best thing you can do is hire a lawyer to protect your interests. If you think this may never end, then you should know that there are some limitations on how long a federal investigation may run.
Waiting is the hardest part of the investigation. You’re sitting on pins and needles anticipating bad news. The worst part is that the United States Attorney’s Offices are horrible about communicating with you, and most don’t give you updates on the status. Generally, the only way you know that the investigation is concluded is when you get paperwork saying formal charges have been filed, or the statute of limitations on the case expires. However, when you have an attorney on your side, you can get more information than you can alone.
What Is the Statute of Limitations For Federal Crimes?
After a crime has been committed, the officials have five years to bring charges against you. Now, keep in mind that this includes most federal crimes. The evidence is presented to the grand jury, and they issue an indictment. By law, the grand jury must return this indictment to you within the allotted period, or the case can be thrown out of court. Some crimes have other statutes of limitations, such as:
•Art Theft – 20 Years
•Arson – 10 Years
•Bank Fraud – 10 Years
•Immigration Violations – 10 Years
•Sexual Abuse – 10 Years or During Child’s Lifetime
•Kidnapping – 10 Years or During Child’s Lifetime
•Murders – No Time Limit
•Acts of Terrorism – No Time Limit
When the government can prove that a person was avoiding prosecution, then the time limits are not applicable. An example would be if you go into hiding when you know the police are trying to find you to serve you with the indictment. Another example would be if the crime doesn’t occur all at the same time. For instance, you run an ongoing conspiracy, and the limitations clock doesn’t begin ticking until the last time you engage in the activity. So if you were stealing money from the bank you worked at on a regular basis, and the last time you took funds was on January 10th, 2019, then the statute of limitations would not be up until January of 2029.
Special Circumstances To Consider
The statute of limitations has some unusual rules, especially if foreign governments are involved. In some cases, the prosecutor gets information under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. Due to all the red tape in getting data from another country, and the time that it takes to get things collected, additional time is allotted to get the indictment.
Some crimes fall under the jurisdiction of both federal and state. Even though the federal government may clear you, you may still be under investigation by the state. Generally, the state will not try to pursue any charges if the federal officials don’t feel they have enough information, but there are some cases where they do. Some state prosecutors are vested in specific causes and will go above and beyond to make a point.
If you are worried about a federal investigation that you are currently under, you may have to wait a while to get the clear sign you desire. The best way to know that you are not going to be indicted is when the statute of limitations expires, and you haven’t heard from anyone. Another way is when the AUSA agent who is working on your case moves to another office, job, or is working on another case. While this isn’t a surefire way to be off the hook, it can give you a sense that you have moved from the danger zone.
Whatever you do, don’t keep calling them trying to find out the status of your investigation. If you are not a top priority to the agent, then the constant reminder of a pending matter may bring unwanted attention to your case. The best thing you can do is get a good attorney to help protect your interests and ensure that you do everything to cooperate. In many cases, the only thing you can do is wait until the statute of limitations expires to be cleared.