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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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what should i do when i receive a target letter

By Spodek Law Group | July 19, 2023
(Last Updated On: July 28, 2023)

Last Updated on: 28th July 2023, 07:31 pm

What to Do When You Receive a Target Letter

Receiving a target letter from a federal agency like the IRS or SEC can be an incredibly unnerving experience. This formal letter states that you are under investigation for potentially violating federal laws. Quite often, a target letter comes before you are formally charged with any crimes. Understandably, most people feel anxious, concerned, and overwhelmed when that letter shows up in the mailbox.

While this legal notice is certainly serious, try not to panic. Having an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney on your side can make all the difference. Here’s a practical guide on what to do next and how to find the best legal representation after getting a target letter.

Don’t Panic – Take a Deep Breath

The first thing to do when you receive a target letter is simply – don’t panic. Easier said than done, of course. But working yourself up into a frenzy won’t do anyone any good right now. So take some deep breaths, have a glass of water, and try to clear your mind.

Remember that just because you received a target letter does not necessarily mean you will be criminally indicted. In fact, a good number of target letter recipients are never formally charged. The letter is often more of a scare tactic used by federal agencies to get people to cooperate quickly.

So take it one step at a time. Carefully read the letter to understand why you are being investigated. Make sure you understand which agency sent the letter and what exactly they are looking into. Try to recall any interactions you’ve had with federal agents over the past months or years.

While stressful, remember this situation is likely not as dire as your emotions are telling you. With smart, strategic legal help, you may be able to resolve the investigation without any criminal charges.

Don’t Talk to Anyone Without Your Lawyer Present

Once you’ve taken a beat to collect yourself, the next imperative step is – do not talk to any federal investigators without your qualified legal counsel present.

The target letter will likely say that you have the opportunity to cooperate with the investigation before any indictments come down. You may feel tempted to explain your side of the story. Don’t do it alone.

Anything you say to investigators can and will be used against you. They are building a case – not trying to help you. So schedule any interviews only with your lawyer by your side.

In fact, you should not talk about the investigation with anyone other than your attorney. Not your spouse, family members, friends or coworkers. Federal agents could reach out to anyone close to you, so be cautious. Limit your conversations only to privileged discussions with your lawyer.

Notify Your Employer

If this federal investigation pertains at all to your current or past work, you should notify your employer about receiving the target letter. But phrase it carefully, emphasizing that no formal charges have been filed against you.

Offer to cooperate with any internal investigation they may want to conduct. However, firmly state you will only participate with your legal counsel present.

Getting out ahead of the issue with your employer is wise. You want to be as transparent as possible, while still protecting yourself legally.

Find an Experienced White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

The most critical thing you can do after receiving a target letter is retain an experienced white collar criminal defense lawyer. This is not the time to rely on your trusted family lawyer or a public defender.

You need someone highly experienced specifically with federal investigations – and the earlier, the better. An adept lawyer can potentially intervene before charges are ever filed. Don’t take chances with your freedom.

How to Find the Best Lawyer for Your Situation

With so much on the line, how do you find the very best legal representation after receiving a target letter? Here are tips on what to look for:

Search for law firms specializing in white collar criminal defense. Search Google for terms like “white collar criminal defense” and “[your city]”. Look for firms with dedicated practice groups focusing on federal investigations and criminal defense. Their websites should tout extensive experience specifically with target letters.

Seek out former federal prosecutors. The best defense lawyers once worked within the government themselves. Look for attorneys who served as former federal prosecutors or SEC/IRS agents. They understand precisely how these agencies operate.

Look for trial experience. While you hope to avoid formal charges, you want a lawyer with plenty of trial experience just in case. Search for lawyers who have taken white collar criminal cases all the way through trial and appeal. About 95% of federal cases end in plea bargains. So trial experience is critical.

Find someone respected. Search out client testimonials and reviews on Google, Avvo, etc. Look for awards or accolades in this field. You want an attorney well-regarded among clients and peers.

Meet with multiple lawyers before deciding. Comparison shop and have intro calls with 3-5 firms before choosing who to hire. Ask about their experience with target letters specifically. Get a feel for who you trust.

Understand the fee structure. These complex cases get expensive. Be upfront about fees and expected costs. Look for lawyers willing to structure fees for the various stages of the case.

Consider a smaller firm. Unlike huge firms, smaller ones offer the benefit of experienced partners personally handling cases. Large firms tend to pass off a lot of responsibilities to junior associates.

8 Key Factors When Choosing a White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer

Once you start meeting with potential attorneys, keep these criteria in mind as you evaluate whom to hire:

1. Specialized experience with federal investigations. Ask specifically how many target letter cases they’ve handled and what results they obtained. Look for at least 10-15 years focused solely on federal cases.

2. Familiarity with your type of alleged crime. Find someone experienced with the specific charges you may face. For instance, if the case involves healthcare fraud, hire a lawyer who specializes in healthcare investigations.

3. Trial record. While settlements are generally the goal, you want an attorney who has taken complex white collar crimes to trial before if needed. Ask about their win/loss rate.

4. Settlement record. Most federal cases settle out of court. Ask about examples of favorable settlements or dismissed charges the lawyer has negotiated pre-trial.

5. Comfort level. This is a stressful scenario. Make sure you feel truly comfortable with and trust the lawyer you choose to hire.

6. Communication skills. Look for clear, compassionate communication. You want an attorney who listens and clearly explains the complex legal process.

7. Cost. Ask for estimates on total attorney’s fees. Look for flexible payment plans – retainers, monthly bills, payment plans, etc.

8. Reputation for ethics. Conduct online research to confirm the lawyer has an ethical reputation. Be wary of any serious disciplinary actions or malpractice claims.

The right white collar criminal defense lawyer can make all the difference in how a federal investigation plays out. So do your research to find the best attorney for your specific situation.

Don’t Delay – Hire Your Lawyer Rapidly

If you’ve received a target letter, you want to secure legal counsel as quickly as possible. The earlier you engage an attorney, the better your chances of limiting the damage.

An experienced lawyer may be able to intervene even before federal charges are filed. They can also ensure you don’t make common mistakes out of fear or confusion that end up hurting your case down the road.

Cooperate fully with your lawyer’s advice and representation. Keep in mind – around half of target letter recipients ultimately face no formal prosecution at all.

With an adept attorney guiding you, the odds tilt even further in your favor. Stay calm, trust your lawyer, and handle the situation one step at a time. Maintaining your composure and following your counsel’s lead will help produce the best possible resolution.

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I was searching for a law firm with some power to help me deal with a warrant in New York . After 6 days I decided to go with Spodek Law Group. It helped that This law firm is well respected by not only the top law firms in New York , but the DA , Judge as well. I...

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