My interview on Favorite Detective Stories - early days in the PI biz, wrongful convictions, creativity, con men.



Interviews with federal agents

As we await a verdict in a federal case, the venue brings to mind the fact that most people do not realize the unique perils of being interviewed by federal agents. It is a crime to tell a lie to any agent of federal government. The official report of the interview will be an FBI Form 302, which is an agent''s subjective report of the interview. Even a minor change you make in a later recollection of events, something we all do every day as we have conversations about past events, can subject you to a Section 1001 charge. You may be charged even if the government is not misled by the lie, if the lie is only to cover up an embarrassing fact unrelated to the investigation, and whether it comes in an informal interview or under oath.

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 makes it a crime to: knowingly and willfully make any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States. The lie does not have to be made to an employee of the government so long as it is "within the jurisdiction" of the (rather enormous) federal government. The falsehood must be "material" and this requirement is met if the statement has the "natural tendency to influence or [is] capable of influencing, the decision of the decision-making body to which it is addressed."

And to top off the absurdity: federal agents can lie to you during an interview. And that is no joke.

Easiest way to see federal agents wilt in bright sunlight is to agree to an interview-- but only if you are allowed to tape record the interview (caveat: do not tape conversations without permission as it may open other cans of worms). Typically, agents are instructed to not participate in recorded interviews, despite the overwhelming imbalance between the parties. A bit wimpy, in my opinion.