How to Prepare for an Investigation

In the article You're Being Investigated... Now What?, we examined what to expect if a state agency investigates a day care provider due to an accident that occurred in her business. In this article we examine how to prepare for an investigation.

One of the common characteristics I have encountered with providers who face criminal charges is that they could have avoided being criminally charged if they had properly prepared for an interview they had with an investigator. As stated in the first article, it is important to be truthful and consistent in your responses to an investigator. It is extremely dangerous to assume that because you believe you are being truthful, the person or persons listening to your version of events will necessarily believe you are telling the truth. If your answers do not appear to make sense, are confusing to understand, or are too inconsistent to be believable, there is a high probability that a provider will face criminal charges.

What providers must do to appear credible and consistent is to practice the answers to questions that an investigator will probably ask them. I have included an accident reminder checklist as a method for a provider to get started in preparing for an interview. Preparation begins the moment you learn of an accident that will probably result in an investigation. By thinking about the questions in the checklist, a provider can focus on the answers she will give. Remember, accidents happen all the time. What gets the provider in trouble is the appearance of lying.

If possible, practice speaking your answers out loud both to yourself and to another person so that you can get some feedback as to how you come across. The questions I have included are not the only questions that you may be asked. It is a good idea to try to anticipate other questions an investigator may ask you.

By properly preparing for an interview, you will gain confidence and reduce your stress. The probability of criminal charges is greatly reduced when you can anticipate the questions being asked and put together a well formulated, consistent response. 

Accident Reminder Checklist

Name of child ___________________________

Date: _______________________

 

  • What happened to the child (type of injuries, etc.)?
  • What actions did you take to help the child?
  • When did you first learn of the accident?
  • When and how did the accident happen (time, date)?
  • Who else was present when the accident happened?
  • Did you ask anyone how the accident happened if you did not see it yourself?
  • If so, what are their names?
  • Where did the accident occur?
  • Did you notify the parent(s)? If so, when?
  • Whom did you talk to about the accident (names, addresses, telephone numbers)?
  • When, where, and how did you talk to others about the accident?
  • If hospitalization was required, how long did you wait to go to the hospital from the time that you learned of the accident?
  • How long did you wait to call the parent(s) from the time you learned of the accident?
  • What actions did you take to make sure that a similar accident would not happen again?

Reminders to Protect Yourself

Never lie—accidents happen all the time.

Start filling in the accident reminder check list as soon as possible.

Remember, an investigator will want details.

Be consistent in your answers. Inconsistencies will be perceived as a lie even if you are not lying.

Practice speaking your answers to the accident reminder checklist out loud so that you come across as confident and professional.

Get honest feedback as to how you appear in your oral presentation when you practice your answers.

If necessary, get an attorney to help you through the investigation.

Remember that you are conveying facts, not a story.

There is no obligation under the law to speak to the police, but you need to be polite and firm and tell them that you do not wish to speak to them and that you want to have an attorney represent you.

Try to have a witness present when you make the request for an attorney to prevent the police from saying that you never requested an attorney.

Frank Perri has been a criminal defense attorney in Rockford, Illinois, for ten years. He is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), prepares tax returns, and represents providers who are audited by the IRS. He has been assisting day care providers for several years since he observed an increase in the number of criminal investigations of providers.


This article has been reproduced with the permission of the author.

Finding a Lawyer

Hiring a lawyer can be expensive. Although some legal fees are based on a flat rate for specific services, most rates are charged by the hour and can range from $75 to $200 per hour or more. In some cases you may be able to negotiate these fees. (The cost of all legal expenses for your business are 100% tax deductible.) To find out the range of the lawyers' fees in your area, contact your state bar association.

Before you hire a lawyer, you should explore whether there's a way to get legal representation at little or no cost to you. Consider the following options:

Does your business liability insurance, car insurance, homeowner's insurance, renter's insurance, or umbrella liability insurance have coverage for legal defense in your case?

Will anyone else's insurance pay for your attorney's fees? If a child was injured at a mall or on a swing set in the playground of your apartment complex, and a parent sues you, find out if the insurance company for the mall or the landlord will pay your legal fees.

Is Legal Aid (also called Legal Services) able to provide you with free legal assistance? Legal Aid is a government program that represents low-income families. To find out if you qualify for this service, look for Legal Aid in the Yellow Pages. To find out if you qualify for any local low-income legal assistance programs, contact your local United Way.

If you believe that you are being discriminated against based on race, sex, religion, or disability, you may be able to get legal assistance from a public interest legal organization at a low cost. These organizations include the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (for gay and lesbian rights), and the National Women's Law Center.

Some lawyers offer their services pro bono (at no cost) as a service to their community. Ask your local Legal Aid office or your local county bar association for the names of lawyers who might help you.

If you live in a city that has a law school, you may be able to get free assistance if the school sponsors law clinics. These clinics, supervised by law professors, are designed to provide law students with real case experiences. These clinics are usually only available to low-income individuals and the school may have other guidelines for which cases they will handle. Contact any law school in your area and ask if they have a clinic. If they don't, ask if they can refer you to attorneys who may be able to help you.

If you are facing criminal charges and have a low income, you may be eligible to have a public defender who will represent you for free. The police can give you information about this service.

One way to afford legal protection is to buy legal insurance through a private company, such as Pre-Paid Legal Services. If you join this plan, you will pay a monthly fee and receive legal assistance either at no charge or at a significant discount. The services offered may include telephone consultation, contract review, audit help, civil and criminal law defense, will preparation, and more. For more information, visit Pre-Paid Legal Services at www.prepaidlegal.com or call 800-654-7757, option 3.

The following organizations may also be able to refer you to a lawyer you can afford: the local county bar association, the local tenant's association, the Small Business Development Association, the National Association for the Self-Employed, the American Association of Retired People, and the United Way.

The Child Care Law Center operates an information and referral line to answer legal questions on the phone. They may also be able to refer you to other legal professionals. Visit them at www.childcarelaw.org or call 415-558-8005.

If you end up having to pay for a lawyer yourself you follow these steps:

Your town may have a legal referral service sponsored by the state or county bar association. Look in the Yellow Pages under "Attorney Referral."

Ask for referrals to a lawyer from your relatives, friends, other providers, your tax preparer, insurance agent, the parents of the children in your care, and your local child care resource and referral agency.

Photo Credit 1: Brian Smith

Photo Credit2: Rebecca Liu