Federal Employee Defense

Federal employees are uniquely vulnerable to a criminal investigation and a criminal prosecution.

Many things that would cause you to be fired if you worked for a private company can cause you to be prosecuted if you are a federal employee. Making a false statement on a time slip can be a federal felony if a zealous enough prosecutor gets the case. While these kinds of lapses would almost never be prosecuted in the private sector, many federal employees have been charged with a crime, or threatened with prison, for this kind of conduct.

Federal employees are also at an increased risk of being a target of a criminal investigation. Unlike private employers, many federal agencies have an Office of Inspector General. These law enforcement offices routinely investigate – and help prosecute – the employees who work for these agencies.

Just as a driver on a road with more police will be more likely to get a ticket, a federal employee at an agency with an aggressive Office of Inspector General is more likely to find him or herself being investigated for criminal conduct – or charged with a crime.

Federal employees who are being investigated by an Office of Inspector General are in a unique position. Normally, law enforcement cannot compel a person to give information that would hurt them – people have a privilege under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution not to talk to the government. But, because the government is a federal employee’s employer, the government – including an OIG agent – can compel a federal employee to talk when it’s a condition of the person’s employment. Though, to do so means the statement normally can’t be used in a criminal prosecution.

Federal employees are highly regulated, and many of these regulations have a criminal component. In addition to concerns about false statements on time slips or on work that has or hasn’t been done, federal employees can be prosecuted for conflict of interest violations that wouldn’t apply to a non-government worker.

Federal employees are often in their jobs out of a deep sense of public service. Yet, by working for their government, they increase the risk of being brought into a federal court and charged with a crime.