During the course of a criminal investigation, federal agents may speak to numerous people in an attempt to build their case. If you are one of these individuals and you happen to make a false statement, you could be charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, the “false statements” statute.
This statute is very broad and applies to statements made under a variety of circumstances. Therefore, it is important to consult with an experienced federal defense attorney before speaking to investigators so you can prevent making any false statements. If you have already made potentially false statements, Attorney David Haas can still help protect you.
Call us 24/7, chat online, or submit the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website as soon as possible so we can leverage our experience to protect and defend your rights.
What Constitutes a “False Statement?”
When most people think about lying to the government as a crime, they envision lying under oath in a courtroom. What they don’t realize is that 18 U.S.C. § 1001 makes it a crime to make a false statement “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States.”
In other words, you do not need to be in a courtroom nor under oath to be charged with a crime for making a false statement if that statement was made during the course of a federal investigation or inquiry. Moreover, a “statement” can be spoken or written, making it equally illegal to tell an outright lie to a federal law enforcement officer during an interview or to misrepresent your income on your tax return.
Not All Lies Are Illegal under the Federal False Statements Statute
While the federal false statements statute is broad, it does have some constraints. Not all lies told to the government constitute a criminal offense. For a false statement to be actionable under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, the following must all be true:
- The statement must have been made knowingly and willfully. Courts interpret this element differently. At a bare minimum, the government will likely need to prove that a defendant intentionally lied, and some courts also require the prosecution to show that the defendant knew it was a crime to make a false statement.
- The statement must be “materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent.” Lying about the weather during an investigation for embezzlement won’t qualify as an actionable false statement. The statement in question must be relevant to the investigation and make an impact on the agent to whom the statement was made for it to qualify as a crime.
- The statement must be related to a matter within the federal government’s jurisdiction. Given the size and scope of the federal government’s authority in the U.S., this element has been interpreted fairly broadly; however, the prosecution must still show that the allegedly false statement was made within the scope of a matter that falls within the federal government’s jurisdiction.
Potential Penalty for Making a False Statement
If federal prosecutors can prove that you made a false statement knowingly and willfully, the statement was materially false, and it related to something within the federal government’s jurisdiction, you may be convicted for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. If so, you will face a fine and/or up to five years in prison. If the statement was made in connection with a domestic or international terrorism investigation, the maximum penalty is increased to eight years in prison.
Get Help from an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
If you have potentially made a false statement to a government agent, you need to speak to an experienced federal defense attorney right away. There are several common defenses that may be available to you; however, speaking directly to a representative of the government yourself is likely only to compound the problem. You need an experienced attorney to speak on your behalf and defend you if charges are filed.
To ensure that your rights are protected, consult with Attorney David Haas as soon as possible. Attorney Haas brings more than 14 years of prosecution experience to helping his clients defend against criminal allegations. He also understands the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and the mitigating factors that are critical in determining a defendant’s sentence.
Call us at 407-755-7675, chat with us online, or submit the form on our website today so we can put our experience, skill and resources to work protecting you and obtaining the best possible outcome for your future. We know that time is of the essence when your future is at stake, so our calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.