What Should I Do If I Received A Target Letter?

Were You Served With Or Did You Receive A Target Letter In The Mail?

The absolute first step you should take if you have received a target letter from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or a U.S. Attorney's Office is to contact an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer immediately. You are being investigated related to a serious financial crime and are in the pre-indictment stage. The investigation may have just begun, or it may have been going on for months or years before you receive a letter alerting you that the government has pin-pointed you as a target or subject of a grand jury investigation.

At no point should you attempt to explain your involvement in a potentially illegal scheme to federal agents or investigators. It is more likely than not that what you say will be used against you and that you will actually hurt your defense rather than help it.

A white collar crimes defense lawyer can guide you through the federal criminal investigation, charging and trial process. An experienced lawyer may be able to help you avoid the actual filing of criminal charges through negotiation with federal prosecutors, through counseling on how to respond to government inquiries or through limiting the invasive scope of a grand jury investigation.

What Is A Target Letter?

Essentially, a target letter is a formal notice that you will be called to testify before a federal grand jury regarding criminal activity you are believed to have participated in or are believed to have knowledge of. If you received a target letter, it is likely that you have already or will in the near future receive a subpoena to testify before the grand jury.

The U.S. Department of Justice has provided a sample target letter on its website.

Are You A Target Or Are You A Subject?

Federal target letters The Department of Justice customarily sends target letters to individuals who are the target of a grand jury investigation and to those who are the subject of a grand jury investigation. One who is considered a target of the investigation is a person whom the U.S. Attorney believes it has "substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime." One who is considered a subject of the investigation is simply one whom the U.S. Attorney believes has information that would be helpful to an investigation, one whose "conduct falls within the scope of the grand jury investigation."

If you are a target, it is very likely that you will be indicted for the federal financial offense(s) for which you have been investigated. However, an indictment is not inevitable; your federal defense lawyer can explain any available options to avoid this fate, including persuading the prosecutor to consider you a witness rather than a target or to close the investigation entirely.

What Information Is Contained In A Target Letter?

The target letter will advise you of the alleged crimes being investigated by the DOJ and the grand jury. You will also be advised that you are not to destroy or alter any evidence that may relate to those federal crimes. The target letter may also inform you that you have the right to refuse to answer any questions that may be asked during the grand jury proceedings that may tend to incriminate you.

Do I Need An Attorney If I Received A Target Letter?

While you are not legally required to obtain your own defense counsel if you have received a target letter, it is generally in your best interest to do so. If you are an employee of a business who is also being investigated, you should consider contacting your own defense lawyer rather than relying on the attorneys representing the business to advocate on your behalf. The job of a business' attorneys is to ensure that the company's best interests are protected; that is not necessarily the same thing as looking out for your best interests.

If the grand jury votes to indict you for the alleged federal offense(s), the prosecutor may notify your attorney and arrange for you to surrender to federal authorities or at a federal courthouse. Alternatively, the prosecutor may pursue an arrest warrant and request that federal authorities execute that warrant to bring you into custody. In most cases, it is better to have a knowledgeable federal defense lawyer on your side to avoid being arrested at home, your place of work or other public location.

The bottom line: If you received a target letter, call a federal defense lawyer today.

North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
Result: Dismissed

An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.