The arrival of an ATFE notice of revocation of license or permit is an unwelcome event; however, over time, one can minimize or overcome its consequences. However, it is vital that you quickly commence the process of damage control. Without question, you should contact a lawyer for consultation; an ATFE investigation can be intimidating and unproductive activity for the inexperienced, with devastating results.
The notice itself is a one-page form; the most recent form is a 5400.12, effective October 1991, although its predecessor, form 5400.10, was still being used in 2005. This fact, alone, should provide you with inkling that the government makes mistakes, too; more on this later.
Invariably, the notice will be accompanied by another document that describes the background facts and the violations charged; this document is known as the ‘Citation’ (although the document may or may not state this). The Citation describes the background facts that support the violations that are also cited within the same document. Unless recommended otherwise, you should direct your lawyer to also submit a demand for a hearing, together with a request for a stay of revocation pending hearing and determination (before the Administrative Law Judge that will inevitably be assigned to your matter). Although nothing is guaranteed, I have never been denied such a request.
Similarly, you should ask the government for an extension of time to serve the answer.
The stay of revocation, and the extension of time to serve an answer, will permit you the breathing room needed to create an effective and successful defense strategy, and to consider whether to obtain fresh licenses or permits as a further defensive measure.
Thoroughly review all of your records relating to any alleged background fact and provide them to your lawyer; information is power and it permits your lawyer to perform the damage control that is most needed to protect you. Similarly, take the time to identify each individual that may, in your opinion, possess information relating to the background facts. All of this information will be used for purposes of preparing and serving an answer to the alleged facts and violations asserted in the notice of revocation.
I can not overemphasize how important it is for the business owner to carefully review each and every document and statement that the government has provided to you to identify inconsistencies and weaknesses in credibility. It is recommended that you do this task with all individuals that may have specific knowledge about a certain background. If possible, compare your timeline of events with the timeline presented by the government (through its background facts). Also, attempt to determine which individuals claiming to have firsthand knowledge actually possess it. Again, it is recommended that you rely upon another individual with firsthand knowledge to double-check your timeline for accuracy, and also to provide a fresh opinion regarding whether or not a particular individual possesses firsthand or secondhand knowledge of the facts alleged.
While you are focusing your efforts on this one case, in all likelihood the prosecutor assigned to your case is overseeing numerous other matters, large and small (relative to your matter); it is almost a certainty that the prosecutor is overworked as a result. It should come as little surprise that, over time, your case might be re-assigned to another prosecutor, an individual who likely has even less incentive and interest regarding the outcome of your case. The information that you provide your lawyer will help to exploit these staffing weaknesses and motivate the government to accept terms and conditions less severe than otherwise possible.