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Lying to a Federal Agent: What Does it Mean for You?

Lying to a Federal Agent: What Does it Mean for You?

Whether you are a witness in a federal prosecution or personally under investigation, the statements you make to federal agents may have severe legal consequences. 

Aside from issues related to self-incrimination, making false statements to a federal agent may result in criminal charges.  Under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, it is a felony to make a false statement to a federal agent. 

Statements include those made to federal investigators, on an application or form, to a private person or institution that implements federal programs, and in business records that are subject to federal inspection.  The purpose behind this law is to ensure the operation and integrity of the federal government.

A false statement for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 violation may be written or oral, sworn, or unsworn, voluntarily made, or required by law, signed or unsigned.   A person may be found guilty of making a false statement to a federal agent if he:

  • (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
  • (2) makes any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations;
  • (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing it contains false, fictitious, or fraudulent information; and
  • (4) the item at issue was material.

What determines whether a false statement is a criminal act for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 is whether:

  • (1) statement or act was material;
  • (2) the act was within the jurisdiction of a federal department or agency; and
  • (3) the act was done knowingly and willfully.

To establish that a statement was material, the government must prove that the concealment or misrepresentation had a natural tendency to influence, or was capable of influencing, the decision of a federal agent, agency, or entity.  

The act of making the statement is considered within the jurisdiction of a federal department or agency if the department or agency had the power to act on the statement; there was an “intended” relationship between the act and the federal government; or the act was calculated to induce government action.

The government must prove the statement was made knowingly and willfully

A statement is knowingly and willfully if was made with an intent to deceive, a design to induce belief in its falsity or to mislead. 

In other words, if the person acted deliberately and with knowledge that the representation was false, the false statement was made knowingly and willfully. 

To commit an act “knowingly” is to do so with knowledge or awareness of the false facts or situation, and not because of mistake, accident, or some other innocent reason. 

Even if the person has lack of actual knowledge as to falsity, the government may still prove the statement was made knowingly by showing that the person either knew the statement was false or acted with a conscious purpose to avoid learning its truth. 

An act is done “willfully” if done voluntarily, intentionally and with the specific intent to do the unlawful act.

Federal Felony Conviction

Defendants who are convicted of violating 18 U.S. C. § 1001 will incur a federal felony conviction and are subject to potential imprisonment of up to five years, or eight years if terrorism was involved.  

Convicted offenders may also face collateral consequences related to immigration, employment, federal benefits, and more.  Lying to a federal agent may also damage your personal and professional reputation. 

If you or someone you love is accused of lying to a federal agent, or has been contacted by a federal agent for any purpose, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. Contact Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer John L. Calcagni III today at (401) 351-5100 or email for a free consultation.