Target Letter

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:

  1. It means you are the target of a federal grand jury investigation
  2. You do not have the right to have counsel with you in the room where you testify, which gives the prosecutor considerable power
  3. Federal prosecutors routinely charge people with perjury for lying under oath
  4. 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
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.