top of page
  • Writer's pictureSean Buckley


Federal Criminal Investigations:

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “The cover-up is worse than the crime.” But what does this mean? And, in particular, what does it mean in the context of a federal criminal investigation?

The idea that the cover-up is worse than the crime is a reflection of the fact that the act of trying to cover up embarrassing or unlawful mistakes is often more serious – and/or more easily proven – than the original mistakes themselves. When we advise our clients not to speak with federal agents without a criminal lawyer, not to delete or destroy evidence, and not to try to influence potential witnesses, we give this advice based on years of experience watching train wrecks that happen when people do the opposite.

Federal criminal investigations present heightened risks due to broad-reaching federal laws penalizing “obstruction” of investigations, combined with the sophisticated methods of federal investigators.

Here are five reasons you should avoid making the cover up worse than the crime during a federal investigation.

1. Obstruction / False Statement Crimes

Lying to investigators makes them mad. In most states, it’s not a crime to mislead state, county, or local police. But federal law is different. It’s a federal felony to “willfully” lie to federal investigators or conceal information from them – even by the simple act of falsely denying guilt. Conviction of a §1001 offense carries potential punishment of up to 5 years in federal prison. It’s also a federal felony under 18 U.S.C. §1512(c)(2) to “corruptly” obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding (which includes a federal investigation). Conviction of obstruction under §1512 carries a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years.

2. Evidentiary Links

If federal investigators don’t have enough evidence to link you to a crime, one of the best ways to shoot yourself in the foot is to link yourself to the crime by trying to cover it up.

3. Consciousness of Guilt

Federal conspiracy crimes, and many federal crimes involving financial transactions, require proof of “willfulness” – that is, proof that a person knew they were doing something wrong when they did x, y, or z. If you have a defense of “lack of willfulness,” the best way to harpoon your own defense is to demonstrate “consciousness of guilt” by trying to cover up your mistake. Facts and circumstances showing a consciousness of guilt are always relevant and admissible against defendants at trial.

4. Cover-ups are Rarely Successful in Federal Investigations

Today’s law enforcement use sophisticated technology to look for evidence of crimes. Federal investigators are especially adept at collecting digital evidence from electronic devices, apps, networks, the Internet, video surveillance systems, and financial institutions (to name just a few). Contrary to popular belief, it’s almost impossible in today’s modern world to completely delete data or destroy digital evidence. Federal investigators also use sophisticated (and intimidating) techniques to root out evidence that someone tried to pressure or influence a witness. Don’t put yourself in a bad spot (see #1, #2, and #3 above) by trying and failing to trick or mislead federal investigators.

5. Sentencing Enhancement

Finally, in those cases where someone is convicted of a federal crime, proof that they tried to obstruct federal investigators enhances the severity of the sentence. Why make a bad situation worse?

To learn more about your legal options and which strategy makes the most sense, schedule an appointment for a FREE CASE EVALUATION with Gulfport , Mississippi federal crimes defense attorney Sean Buckley.

LAW OFFICES OF SEAN BUCKLEY Based in Gulfport, Mississippi, federal criminal defense attorney Sean Buckley has extensive experience defending the legal rights & reputations of individuals in Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula, South Mississippi and Statewide.



Se Habla Español

Serving Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula, South Mississippi , Jackson County,

Harrison County & Statewide


11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page