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Evidence collection, raids and the FBI

Finding FBI agents at your door is an intimidating experience. When the FBI arrives and tells you your house is going to be searched, it can feel like you have no rights at all. An FBI raid can discourage people from asserting their rights in a way that Raleigh police or North Carolina state police can't match. That should not be the case. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is restricted by Federal rules of search and seizure. They do not have unlimited rights to conduct a raid on your home whenever they please. The FBI can and should be held accountable if they violate your Civil Rights.

The scope of a warrant

Before conducting a raid, FBI agents are likely to have obtained a warrant. In general, this means they presented a affidavit or some other form of information to a magistrate judge, asking for the right to conduct a search. If the magistrate judge agrees that there is probable cause to conduct a search and seizure, he or she will issue the warrant. 

Warrants grant limited rights to investigators. They must identify the person or property that is being searched. They must identify the person or property the agents can seize. They limit the time period the agents have to conduct their raid. Typically, they require agents to conduct their raids during the daytime, meaning between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. though there are some cases where a judge can authorize a nighttime raid for good cause.

What should you do during an FBI raid?

It is always best to be polite to law enforcement officers. That does not mean you should be helpful or talkative. Ask to see the warrant. Ask to see the badges of every agent. Ask for them to wait while you call an attorney. They do not have to wait, but if you can get your lawyer there quickly, they may be willing to hold off.

Most importantly, don't answer questions or sign anything. Don't volunteer any information at all. FBI agents are very good at getting people to agree to expand their rights to search and seize property in this manner. The warrant is limited, but you have the power to grant the FBI the right to exceed those limitations.

If they want to search your garage, but the warrant doesn't cover the garage, they can just ask you for permission. They may make it seem like they already have this right, but they don't. Remember, you can't say anything that will help you in this situation. You can say lots of things that will hurt you. Stay silent.

The raid might not be about you

Staying calm, staying quiet and asserting your rights is important. FBI raids do not indicate that you are going to prison. They could be a sign that a business partner or associate is under investigation. They could be about mistaken identity. This is little comfort as they remove your property, including items with sensitive, personal information like cell phones and computers. Still, staying calm and contacting an attorney as soon as possible is your best course of action when facing an FBI raid. 

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