How Long Can You Be Under Investigation?
An investigation is usually the first step in the criminal justice process and can occur even before an arrest. Law enforcement officers conduct criminal investigations to discover legal violations. Therefore, they occur when a crime has been committed or is reasonably suspected. It is used to determine the alleged offense and who committed it.
Generally, law enforcement officers investigate an actual or alleged crime, like murder, statutory rape (see what is statutory rape), theft, or other sexual assault (see what is criminal sexual conduct). However, federal government agencies may undertake the investigation where the offense has violated or is suspected of violating federal law. These agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Secret Services, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Drug Enforcement Agency. Federal crimes include terrorism, cybercrime, drug trafficking, human trafficking (see sex trafficking in Michigan), and fraud.
Being under police investigation does not mean that you face criminal charges. At this stage, they are primarily concerned with fact-finding and conducting interviews to determine if a case exists. However, if a law enforcement agency questions you, it is crucial to have an attorney present to protect your rights. Learn what it means when a detective calls you here.
How Long Can You Be Under Investigation?
A criminal investigation can feel intrusive and inconvenient, and you may put significant decisions on hold while it is ongoing. In many cases, law enforcement agents will not tell you how long it will last. They may not even notify you or your lawyer when you are no longer being investigated. Thus, the endless wait, uncertainty of the outcome, and potential impact on your reputation can cause fear and frustration.
Also, it is difficult to predict the duration of an investigation, as the authorities will keep investigating until they have garnered enough evidence to help them determine whether or not to proceed with the case. Gathering evidence typically involves inspecting the crime scene, examining forensic evidence, and identifying and interviewing witnesses, additional suspects, or victims. The length may also depend on the agency’s workload.
Another factor that may affect the length of a police investigation is the nature of the crime being investigated. In complex cases, such as embezzlement and fraud, there may be a need for a prolonged and in-depth investigation to gather enough evidence. Also, in cases of physical or sexual abuse, i.e. CSC 1st degree Michigan, forensic evidence may be needed to establish the case, which may take some time too.
Furthermore, the relevant provisions of a statute of limitations can affect the duration. A statute of limitations prescribes the time limit for the prosecution to institute criminal charges against an accused person. Federal and state law provide the maximum time for the criminal prosecutor to initiate court proceedings against an accused person for an alleged crime. Statutes of limitations vary between states and may contain different exceptions. Also, states can have different time limits for the same crime, while some states may not have a time limit on criminal offenses.
In Michigan, the time limit for most misdemeanors is six years, and 10 years for felonies. However, violent criminal offenses, like terrorism and murder, have no time limit. Also, criminal sexual conduct 1st degree has no time limit. However, for criminal sexual conduct 2nd degree and criminal sexual conduct 3rd degree, if the victim is below 18, the time limit is 15 years or the victim’s 28th birthday, whichever is later. If the victim is above 18, the time limit is 10 years or the victim’s 21st birthday, whichever is later. In addition, the time limit for criminal sexual conduct 4th degree is also 10 years or the victim’s 21st birthday, whichever is later. For child trafficking, the time limit is 25 years.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Federal Crimes?
The statute of limitations for the vast majority of federal crimes is five years. Therefore, the law permits the federal government to investigate such crimes within the time limit. However, crimes like art theft, arson, several immigration offenses, and some crimes against financial institutions have more extended time limits. The time limit for arson, bank fraud, and immigration violations is 10 years, while the time limit for art theft is 20 years. In addition, the time limit for kidnapping is 10 years or the child’s lifetime, whichever is longer.
For capital offenses, there is no time limit. So, the authorities can initiate a federal investigation and prosecute a crime that attracts the death penalty at any time. Also, there are instances, like federal criminal conspiracy offenses, where the commission of a crime may extend over a long duration. In such cases, time starts counting from when the offense is completed.
Thus, if the federal prosecutor does not bring criminal charges against you within the prescribed time limit for an offense, then the investigation is over. Therefore, the law requires the federal government to investigate and prosecute a criminal offense within the time limit.
Can a Time Limit be Extended?
Generally, time starts counting from the day the offense occurs to the expiration of the maximum time prescribed. However, there are cases where the crime discovery is challenging, or the victim is too scared to report the crime. In such situations, the time limit may be extended. For instance, in rape or criminal sexual conduct cases involving DNA evidence, the statute of limitations begins running when the suspect is identified and not when the crime occurs. If the suspect cannot be identified and the offense is reported within a year of its commission, time starts counting whenever the suspect is eventually identified.
In addition, the statute of limitations does not start counting if the accused person is outside the state. Such a situation is known as tolling the statute of limitations. Tolling may also occur when the suspect goes into hiding or outside the country while the police investigation is ongoing. The statute of limitations will restart once they return to the area.
Also, a statute of limitations does not prevent the authorities from commencing federal investigations and filing criminal charges. However, you can raise the expiration of the time limit as a defense in court against them. If you do not raise the defense, the prosecution will continue with the case, even though the time limit has passed.
How to Know if You are Being Investigated?
The most obvious sign of being investigated is contact from a police officer or detective. It may be via phone call, a visit to your house or office, or an invitation to the police station. In any case, it is safer to have a lawyer present to ensure your rights are adequately protected. Also, your friends, co-workers, and family members may be contacted and asked some questions about you.
The law enforcement agency may execute a search warrant at your house. The federal government may also issue a subpoena against you or your records. You may also receive a target letter informing you that you are a target of an investigation.
What To Do if You are Being Investigated
If you are being investigated, it does not mean you face criminal charges or jail time. The authorities are trying to gather evidence and build their case. So, you do not need to panic, avoid them, or run away. Once they have contacted you for questioning, ensure that you have an attorney present. Learn what happens if you don’t talk to a detective here.
Law enforcement officers are experts at interrogating people. Before making an official statement or a confession, ensure that you have adequate legal representation. You have the right to remain silent until you have an attorney present. Be careful not to divulge confidential or sensitive information until you have spoken with your lawyer. Also, even after you have been questioned, or if you think you are in the clear, be cautious of what you say because it may be used against you later.
Why Do You Need an Attorney if You are Under Investigation?
If you are the subject of a police investigation, the first thing you should do is hire a lawyer. A criminal defense attorney will walk you through the complexities of the case and ensure that your rights are not violated. A lawyer will also help you respond appropriately to the authorities after considering the statute of limitations in your particular situation.
In addition, you need a lawyer to help you develop an excellent defense strategy if you are eventually charged with the commission of the offense. You are also protected by the attorney-client relationship and can trust your lawyer to represent you effectively.
Attorney Nicole Blank Becker is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Michigan who can represent you if you are being investigated. She abides by the attorney-client relationship privilege and is trustworthy. Having worked as a prosecutor before, she has an excellent understanding of criminal investigations and prosecutions and will work to protect your rights. Consult with her today.
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