Being the subject of a government investigation can seriously disrupt your personal and professional life. You may not even realize you are being investigated until you or your business receive a subpoena.
Government agents who are investigating potential federal crimes use subpoenas as a tool to get information. A subpoena may demand that you turn over certain documents or information about your business, or that you show up at a certain day and time to testify in a grand jury proceeding.
Information obtained from a subpoena helps government agents decide whether to file charges or not. Your first instinct upon receiving a subpoena may be to immediately cooperate, out of fear of being penalized if you don’t.
Read first, then react
However, there are several things you should do before responding to a government subpoena. Read the subpoena in detail and make sure you understand exactly what it is asking for. At a minimum, try to determine what the investigation is about.
Once you have a basic grasp of what’s being asked of you, it may help to speak with a criminal defense attorney for advice on the next steps and developing a strategy. An attorney can also research your business, gathering and organizing information.
Protect your data
Assess your recordkeeping protocols. Once you’ve isolated which data or records are necessary to respond to the subpoena, take steps to ensure the information is kept safe and secure.
Appoint a business recordkeeper if you do not already have one. A recordkeeper should be thoroughly familiar with the standard recordkeeping procedures, but do not provide them with any facts about the investigation.
Therefore, if the recordkeeper must testify, they can provide truthful and competent testimony about how records are kept but will not have any factual knowledge about the subject of the investigation.
Should you cooperate?
Finally, sometimes the easiest resolution is to cooperate with the government and provide them with the requested information. If you determine their request is unrelated to you or your business, responding may be the best option.
Before responding, find out exactly what information they need and how they want it sent to them. Keep copies of everything you send.
While responding to a government subpoena will usually cost you some time and effort, these tips can help you navigate the process smoothly.