What is a Target Letter?
A target letter is a letter from a federal prosecutor working for the U.S. Attorney's Office. The target letter is a notification that you have been under investigation for having committed one or more federal criminal offenses.
Target letters generally advise you of your rights, including your right to a criminal defense lawyer and your right not to testify and possibly incriminate yourself.
Why Should You Be Concerned About a Federal Target Letter?
If you receive a target letter, it means you are at risk of being indicted by a grand jury. The federal prosecutor will present evidence to the grand jury and ask for an indictment — a formal accusation that you have committed a crime — which means, if the grand jury chooses to indict, an arrest warrant will issue against you.
You should be concerned about receiving a target letter because:
- It means you are the target of a federal grand jury investigation
- You do not have the right to have counsel with you in the room where you testify, which gives the prosecutor considerable power
- Federal prosecutors routinely charge people with perjury for lying under oath
- If the grand jury indicts, you will be arrested and face trial
What Should You Do After You Receive a Target Letter?
If you receive a target letter, you are served a subpoena to testify before a grand jury. While you have the right not to testify, "taking the Fifth" to stop self-incrimination can have its own consequences, subject to the facts and circumstances of your case.
Important: If you receive a target letter, retaining counsel is the best route toward improving the outcome of your case, because there are options in how you can respond. Request a consultation with federal defense attorney Patrick Roberts (based in Raleigh, North Carolina) at 800-760-9071 or use our online form.
What Are My Options?
There are a few options that you have in responding to a target letter. In general:
- The target letter may advise you on your rights, but counsel can instruct you about how to protect those rights in the face of a grand jury investigation
- Even though counsel cannot be in the same room with you, counsel can be present during the proceedings, and you can consult with counsel outside
- Counsel can help persuade the prosecutor to allow you to present your own witnesses and/or evidence, which might help to prevent an indictment
- Counsel can help negotiate a favorable plea bargain with the federal prosecutor before an indictment is formally issued, if that is best under the circumstances (after indictment, the stakes increase dramatically; the prosecutor has much less of an incentive to negotiate)
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
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.