What Is a Federal Target Letter?

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Jul 9, 2019

Jul 9, 2019 • by Rebecca Smith

Unlike state or local investigations, when as the person is investigated on a federal level, receives a notice from the Attorney’s office. When the federal state has an interest in investigating a person, they send a target letter to the said person informing them about their intentions. A person is targeted if a prosecutor or a grand jury has significant evidence tying them to a crime or crimes.

Hence, a target letter is a notification you receive informing you that you have been under investigation for committing a federal crime. Mostly, target letters are used for white-collar crimes when suspects are considered low flight risk.

However, this is a cue to hire a professional lawyer and the letters explicitly advice towards it. There are so many decisions a person needs to make after receiving a target letter.

What Is a “Target”

When it comes to federal criminal investigations, the classification of the people involved is in three different categories. They are witness, subject and target. A witness is a person believed to have information that may prove the guilt or innocence of a suspect.

A subject is in between the witness and the target because they may have engaged in conduct that looks unethical or suspicious. The prosecutor, however, needs more investigation to be sure whether they can prove involvement in the crime.

A target is the worst of the three because the prosecutor or the grand jury has evidence linking them to a crime.

What Does a Target Letter Contain

When you receive a target letter it will notify you about the crime or crimes you are being investigated for, your right to the fifth amendment, and advice about getting an attorney to represent you. Beyond that, it cautions against destroying evidence that may get linked and helpful to the case.

Destruction of evidence could result in additional charges, such as obstruction of justice. Learn more and see what a sample letter for an explanation of criminal charges looks like.

Why You Need to Be Concerned About a Federal Target Letter

Once you receive a target letter, chances are, you are going to get indicted by a grand jury. This does not always happen, but you can’t be sure what will happen to or you may be in deep. If the federal prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury, they may ask for an indictment.

If the jury supports the indictment, an arrest warrant will get issued against you. What is worse than that, you’ll have no right to have a council with you while testifying, which will give the prosecutor considerable power and they are notorious for charging people with perjury for lying under oath.

What You Need to Do After You Receive a Federal Target Letter

The most important thing you can do is hire a professional criminal defense attorney and if you are dealing with debt, you need to find a debt lawyer. Federal crimes are serious business and you are in the pre-indictment stage. The problem with this is that anything you can and will get used against you.

Without proper counsel, you may say the wrong thing and find yourself paying for a different crime from what you are being targeted for. The case may have been going on for weeks, months or even years before the government decides that you are a target.

One of the things you should not do is try to explain your involvement in the crime with either federal agents or the investigators. As tempting as it may be to call the agents in order to get more information or even try to explain yourself, it will not work in your favor.

These people will record everything you say and they have extensive training to exploit the situation. The only way you should communicate with anyone about the case is through the attorney.

An attorney will evaluate the case and advise you accordingly. After that, you may issue statements to the government about it and this way, it would be to your benefit. The attorney may also help you avoid charges by negotiating with the federal prosecutor and counseling you on how to respond to inquiries.

Don’t Do What the Letter Asks

Target attorneys can vary depending on the crime which they always ask the receiver to do something. It may request that you have a meeting with the attorney handling the case or ask you to testify in court in front of the jury.

You may be tempted to do this because you want to explain that you have nothing to do with anything. Regardless of what it asks, refrain from doing it without getting advice from a lawyer first.

A Federal Target Letter Does Not Mean You’ll Be Indicted

A target letter does not translate to an indictment. The likelihood is high though, but the prosecutors rarely get sufficient evidence to do it. This is one of the major reasons why you need to hire a professional white collar criminal defense attorney.

They may be able to convince the prosecutor to either close that investigation or make you a witness instead, which is better. Unless of course you contradict your statements and get yourself in more trouble.

Should You Talk With the Other People Involved in the Case?

Short answer, no. Just as should not talk with the investigators, any conversation you have with the people involved in the case could be used against you if they get subpoenaed in the trial. Prosecutors are very good at getting information out of people and they do it so innocently that you may not know what will implicate you or not.

Besides that, if any of the people you talk to end up being witnesses, the prosecution will accuse you of obstruction of justice. Do family members count? Does your employer need to know why you may need more off days? These can be challenging circumstances to be in because they will ask questions.

Your attorney will advise you on what to say and what not to say depending on the sensitivity of the case.

Handling a Federal Target Letter

Receiving a federal target letter can be stressful, but as long as you have a professional attorney by your side, getting through the case can be easier for you. Make sure you hire a competent criminal defense or debt lawyer and don’t be tempted to use your business lawyer because they won’t be much help.

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