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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > What You Should Know About Lying to a Federal Officer

What You Should Know About Lying to a Federal Officer

It is a crime to lie to a federal officer even if you are not the target of the original investigation. To be sure, there are certain considerations that all people should understand about the federal crime of lying to a federal officer; remaining aware of this can help you protect your rights should you ever be facing these criminal charges.

The Law

Lying to a federal officer is designated a crime under the 18 U.S. Code Section 1001. This applies to anyone who knowingly and willfully:

“(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.”

It is important to remember that this applies to conversations or statements made to federal agents. “Federal agents” is a very large group of people though, and there are many ways that people can directly or indirectly violate this law. For example, an article on LinkedIn explains that if an employee falsifies hours on a timesheet and then the employer comes under federal investigation and submits those records to a federal agent, it would run afoul of this law.

This law also applies when it involves representatives from regulatory agencies, not just the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There are many regulatory agencies where this law may apply. If you are concerned that you may be in a position to answer questions and want to know if you are subject to this provision, you should talk to a knowledgeable federal crimes attorney.

Even “No” Can Count as a Lie

In the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brogan v. United States, the Court clarified that even saying an exculpatory “no” to a federal officer can be enough to make someone liable for lying to a federal agent. In this case a union officer answered “no” when a federal official asked him if he had accepted any cash or gifts from the company where his union had members. This was proven to be knowingly untrue.

Before this ruling there was an “exculpatory no” doctrine where courts did not charge people who denied responsibility for other crimes when they denied any wrongdoing, even if it technically violated this section. The Supreme Court disagreed with the “exculpatory no” doctrine and clarified that even an exculpatory “no” can lead to charges under section 1001.

Leesburg Federal Crimes Attorney

 If you are charged with any federal crimes, or are even approached for questioning by a federal government agency, you should talk to a knowledgeable federal crimes defense attorney to find out what your rights and responsibilities are. Our experienced federal crimes attorneys at Simms Showers, LLP can help to defend you against any federal charges in Leesburg, Loudoun County or Prince William County.

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