What To Do First If You Receive A Target Letter
If you are involved in a federal investigation in connection with a criminal offense, the federal government may consider you a witness, a subject or a target. If you receive what is known as a target letter from a federal prosecutor (Assistant United States Attorney) or the Department of Justice notifying you that you are the target or subject of a grand jury investigation, that means the federal government has reason to believe that you were involved in some type of federal offense or that you have information about an alleged crime.
If you have received a target letter from the federal government, you could be at risk for criminal charges at the federal level. Federal charges carry serious, potentially life-changing consequences upon conviction, and it is in your best interest to retain the services of a knowledgeable federal criminal defense lawyer the moment you receive a target letter. For more information about target letters and the federal criminal investigation process, contact our knowledgeable Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today.
What is a Target Letter?
In the federal criminal justice system, a target letter serves as formal notice that the government is investigating you in connection with a serious federal crime and that you will be called to testify before a grand jury regarding the alleged crime. In federal criminal cases, a grand jury is convened to investigate possible violations of the law on behalf of the federal government, and if you receive a target letter, the government’s investigation may have just begun, or it may have been going on for months or even years.
If you are identified by the target letter as a subject, that means the Assistant U.S. Attorney (federal prosecutor) investigating the crime believes you have information that would be helpful to the investigation. If you are a target of a federal investigation, it is likely that the government already has substantial evidence linking you to the crime and that you will be indicted for the federal offense.
In fact, a target letter typically signals the pre-indictment stage of the federal criminal process, meaning the federal prosecutor is collecting evidence in an attempt to secure an indictment against you. However, keep in mind that an indictment is not inevitable. A good federal attorney can ensure that you understand your options with regard to a target letter, including possibly persuading the prosecutor to downgrade your status to a witness or close the investigation altogether.
What Happens Next?
Target letters almost always request that you take some specific action. For instance, your target letter may ask you to meet with an Assistant U.S. Attorney who is investigating a criminal case, testify before a grand jury, or hire an attorney and have the attorney contact the prosecutor. It is imperative that you respond to the target letter appropriately and in a timely manner, so you can avoid making your situation worse than it is. At no time should you attempt to explain yourself to federal agents or investigators.
Anything you say can be used against you, and trying to clear things up with investigators could end up hurting your defense rather than helping it. Even if you are innocent of the crime that is under investigation, if you speak to federal agents on your own, there is always a risk that you could incriminate yourself and end up facing charges for a federal offense.
Follow These Steps to Protect Your Rights
Retain legal counsel as soon as possible.
A target letter is not something you should try to respond to on your own. Whether the target letter you received is asking you to meet with an Assistant U.S. Attorney, testify before a grand jury or take some other action, it is best to have an attorney on your side who can respond to the target letter properly and handle all communication with the federal investigators or prosecutor moving forward.
Some people mistakenly think that responding to a target letter on their own poses a minimal risk, especially if they are innocent of the crime in question. On the contrary, being the target of a federal investigation is a very serious matter and if you receive a target letter from the federal government, you need to take every possible precaution to protect your rights and avoid giving the authorities anything that they can use against you in court.
Remember that federal prosecutors investigating criminal cases are not on your side, nor do they have your best interests in mind. They are paid to bring in criminal suspects and get convictions and they are hoping you will give them the information they need to do their job. Fortunately, as a target in a federal investigation, you do have rights, one of the most important being the right to obtain legal counsel.
At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience dealing with target letters and we can guide you through the federal investigation process, dealing with the government on your behalf and protecting your rights along the way. As your legal representative, it is our main goal to resolve the criminal investigation without charges being filed. However, if the grand jury hands down an indictment, our trial-tested attorneys will stand by your side and assist you through the charging and trial process.
Consider the information contained in the target letter, as well as its purpose.
A target letter serves as more than just a notice that you are in some way involved in a federal investigation. The letter will contain important information about the alleged crimes the Department of Justice and grand jury are investigating and it may also inform you of your right to refuse to answer any questions during the grand jury proceedings that may incriminate you.
The truth is that every federal case is different, and it is always a good idea to consult an experienced defense attorney who can review the target letter you received and ascertain its purpose. In some cases, the Assistant U.S. Attorney or Department of Justice may send a target letter hoping that they can negotiate a plea deal with your cooperation and avoid having to secure an indictment against you. In other cases, the evidence against you may not be as strong as the prosecutor would like and your attorney may be able to convince the Assistant U.S. Attorney that you shouldn’t be prosecuted for the crime at all.
Obtain as much information as you can about the investigation.
When you receive a target letter, you learn that a federal investigation is ongoing and that you are a part of it, but there is a lot more you’ll want to know about the investigation so that you can protect yourself as thoroughly as possible. The federal government investigates, charges and punishes federal crimes swiftly and harshly, and if you are indicted for a federal offense and convicted at trial, you could face a federal prison sentence, substantial fines and restitution, among other life-changing criminal consequences.
Given the stiff penalties associated with a conviction at the federal level, clearing your name and protecting your reputation is probably your most pressing concern after receiving a target latter, and that is where a good defense attorney comes in. Your defense attorney can contact the federal prosecutor on your behalf to find out the status of the investigation and other important information, such as the likely timeline of the case and whether the government is planning to pursue charges against anyone else in connection with the alleged crime. For instance, federal drug cases often include allegations of a drug conspiracy, which gives the government the opportunity to prosecute anyone else who played a role in the crime, however minimal that role may have been. In a conspiracy, everyone involved in the conspiracy is criminally liable for the actions of the co-conspirators and such charges are fairly easy for the government to prove.
Consult Our Reputable Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
The last thing you want to do upon receiving a target letter is wait and see what happens. Early intervention is the best defense against target letters and crafting an immediate, compelling response to the letter is your best chance at avoiding criminal charges. If you have received a target letter in connection with one or more federal offenses like money laundering, mortgage fraud, embezzlement, drug conspiracy or RICO violations, contact our defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.
You are not legally obligated to hire an attorney if you receive a target letter, but it is in your best interest to do so. A knowledgeable defense attorney can ensure that you understand your legal rights and help you make the best decisions moving forward. If you are a target of the investigation and the grand jury votes to indict you, having an attorney in your corner who is already familiar with your case can significantly improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.