If you learn that you are the target or subject of a federal investigation for alleged tax violations and economic crimes, DO NOT make the mistake of answering any questions, asked by anyone, without first retaining a qualified criminal tax defense attorney. Your very liberty may be at stake. When selecting a lawyer to represent you, you have an absolute right to interview the attorney and to ask basic questions. Remember, the government reports that over 93% of the indictments that allege criminal tax violations and related economic crimes result in a conviction. Therefore, education, criminal tax experience and a record of successfully jury trial verdicts for the defense in federal criminal tax cases is vital information.
Select a Lawyer with a Winning Track Record
No competent decision regarding hiring a lawyer in a criminal tax case can possibly be made without this information. Remember the United States expects to win every case. That means they expect the defense attorney to lose virtually every trial. As a defendant, you want to hire a lawyer that has a track record of leveling the playing field. Someone who despite the odds has won criminal tax cases in the past. You would not want to have heart surgery with a doctor that never successfully conducted heart surgery before. You would not want to hire a contractor to build your home if he had never successfully built any home before. So why in the world would you want to hire a lawyer to defend you who has never won a criminal tax jury trial for the defense?
Rely on the Lawyer's Trial Record not Alleged Contacts
DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that a lawyer that was successful as a former prosecutor will be effective as a defense attorney. Remember as a prosecutor you are expected to win. You get to pick and chose the cases and counts that will be indicted. Prosecutors have trained agents to help build the case and gather favorable evidence. They have resources that greatly exceed the average individual defendant. DO NOT let any former prosecutor imply that because of their "contacts" in the government where they used to work, you will receive preferential treatment. This is simply not true and is unethical. Cases are built on evidence and are largely decided on the evidence and the talent of the lawyers to present the evidence in a persuasive fashion. Alleged "contacts" never decide jury trials.
The Minimum Questions You Should Ask
So, here are a few questions that should be asked before you select a lawyer to represent you in a criminal tax case.
1. How many criminal tax cases have you tried while representing the defendant?
2. How many of your criminal tax cases resulted in a jury verdict of NOT GUILTY on all counts?
3. What are the names and case numbers of your last 10 criminal tax cases that your client was found not guilty on all counts?
4. What is your tax education?
5. Are you Florida Bar Certified as a tax specialist?
6. Do you have a Masters in Law (LLM) in tax?
7. Do you have an accounting background? If so, are you a CPA in addition to being a lawyer?
Why a Common Criminal Defense Attorney is at a Disadvantage
Some lawyers will state that they are criminal lawyers and know how to try a case. They suggest that they will hire a tax expert to assist and sit at counsel's table at trial if necessary. However, this seldom ends with a good result because the IRS agent will often testify during the trial for the government. The agent will know more about the Internal Revenue Code than the criminal lawyer. The agent will use his superior knowledge to his advantage during direct and cross examination. There will be no time for the criminal lawyer to have the tax expert explain the intricacies of the tax laws to him while to trial is moving forward.
Why a Common Civil Tax Attorney is at a Disadvantage
Some civil tax lawyers want to treat the criminal tax investigation like a simple civil audit. This seldom ends good. Criminal Investigation special agents are trained to gather evidence to make cases to get permission to indict and ultimately convict the defendant taxpayer. They are not trained to give nice taxpayers a break. Civil tax lawyers often provide information to the agents with the hope that they will go away. By the time they understand that criminal investigations do not work in this fashion, it is too late. The damage has been done. Some inexperienced tax attorneys will file amended tax returns. This is a very dangerous act. Often the amended tax returns are used by the government as exhibits at trial to help establish that the original tax returns that were filed by the taxpayer were false and that there is a substantial tax due.
In Summary, Do Your Homework Before making a Selection
In summary, before you select a lawyer to represent you in a criminal tax case do your homework. The selection of a lawyer will likely effect the outcome of your case.