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What to Do First If You Get A Target Letter

October 11, 2021

When you receive a target letter, you may not know whether you are a “witness” to the investigation, the “subject” of the investigation or the “target” of the investigation. If you are a “witness,” the government is asking you to provide information that can help them with their investigation. If you are a “subject,” you committed actions that the government believes would make you subject to a grand jury investigation. If you are a “target,” the federal government has a copious amount of evidence that connects you to the crime that they are investigating.

Since you are receiving this target letter, there is a possibility that you will be indicted. So, the first thing that you need to do is hire a federal defense attorney. The federal government sends you a target letter to let you know that you are currently under investigation and that you may be charged with a crime.

What Is a Target Letter?

The government begins to collect evidence in its case, and one way in which it does this is by sending people target letters. For example, a target letter informs you that the government requests that you visit the assistant U.S. attorney or testify before a grand jury.

You can expect the target letter to contain several pieces of information, including the following:

  • The crime that is being investigated.
  • The federal statutes that you are alleged to have broken.
  • A list of the rights you have during the investigation.
  • Deadlines that pertain to your case.

What Is the First Thing You Must Do after You Receive a Target Letter?

You must respond to this letter. If you fail to do so, you will be subject to receiving severe penalties. However, this does not mean that you should talk to federal authorities at this time. The federal criminal defense attorney you hire will do the talking for you. If you do speak to the federal authorities, you can explain to them that you would like to help them with their investigation but that you will only do so when you have a criminal defense attorney.

You have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to an attorney. Exercise both of those rights. If you were to lie to the investigators, they may charge you with obstruction of justice, so just remain silent. The target letter may arrive after you decline to be interviewed during the initial questioning.

Your target letter may contain deadlines. These deadlines are often related to documents that the federal government will require you to submit to the grand jury. This letter will also inform you of very important information, such as where you need to go to give your testimony, when you need to go and at what time.

This is also the time when you need to assist your attorney with your defense. If you have documents that are relevant to the case, make sure that you gather those so that you can present them to your attorney. Any assistance that you can give to your attorney would be extremely helpful. The evidence that you may find in your possession may be evidence that could hurt your case. You must not destroy this evidence! If you do, the federal government can charge you with obstruction of justice and other criminal charges.

Remember that the only person you should speak to about this case is your criminal defense attorney. At the top of the list of people not to speak to would be federal agents, but you must also not speak to other law enforcement officials and the people you work with in your office. Most importantly, do not share anything on social media! Federal agents may check your presence on the internet, and if they see anything incriminating on your social media posts, they will use this against you. If you need to talk to someone about your case, make sure that you only do this when your attorney is present.

The Investigation

One or more of several government agencies may investigate the crime in question. These include the following:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • The job of ICE is to protect American citizens from foreign criminals and illegal immigrants.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • The FBI protects American citizens from terrorist attacks and foreign intelligence threats.
  • The best thing to do first after receiving a target letter is hire a criminal defense attorney so that your attorney can get started on your defense immediately.
What To Do First If You Get A Target Letter

Have you ever received a target letter? If you have never received, it is most likely you do not understand what it is. A target letter is a written document sent by the United States attorney to an individual stating that they are a target of a federal criminal investigation. It is a letter that asks you to co-operate by providing the assistance needed to complete the investigations. In the letter will be information on what federal crimes you are facing and what they would like you to do as a measure of cooperation. Before a target letter is sent to you, the chances are that an agent from an investigating body will have contacted you.

If you received a target letter from a federal prosecutor saying that you are a subject of an investigation by a grand jury, there are some steps that you need to take immediately. These are steps that will ensure that you are in a position to respond adequately to the demands of the prosecutor.

Hire a lawyer

It is common that whenever you find yourself under investigation or facing charges, you will need to hire the services of a lawyer. However, it is possible that if you are reading this article, you are already in the process of hiring a lawyer. Maybe you are asking yourself how you will find a lawyer who will help you to deal with the charges facing you. If you know how to hire a good lawyer, then you’ll be on your way to responding appropriately to the target letter.

The process of hiring a lawyer should be based on the crimes you are being investigated for. If you are facing a federal criminal investigation, you’ll need to have the services of a federal criminal defense lawyer who is adequately furnished with knowledge on how to deal with such issues. If it is bank fraud, you need the services of a lawyer who has experience in that field. It’s also important to take into consideration that there are thousands of statute under the U.S Justice System and they are applied differently depending on the jurisdiction. So, it is important to hire a lawyer who is familiar with the statute of your area.

Do you respond to the target letter?

Whenever you receive a target letter, there is without a doubt something that the prosecutor won’t you to do. The letter might be asking you to present yourself for a meeting with the team investigating the matter you are associated with. Others will ask you to present yourself before a grand jury to give a testimony. Some target letters will ask you to hire the services of a lawyer who will then contact the prosecutor. Regardless of the request contained in the target letter, the prudent decision to make is to hire a lawyer who will, in turn, contact the prosecutor on your behalf. Do not attempt it call the prosecutor by yourself since you might not understand the legal implication of your actions. The prosecutor can use such an opportunity to corner you into a position that will negatively affect your defense.

A target

In any case of a federal criminal investigation, the people involved are classified into three categories namely subject, witness and target. If you are identified as a target, it means that the investigators are looking into your conduct. The investigating agency considers you as the person responsible for the crime committed. If you are a subject, it means that the federal agents have identified you with the crime committed, but they need you to provide information that they believe you might possess, but that does not necessarily mean that you are to be prosecuted. Clearly, you do not want to be a target since you are likely to be the one facing charges in a court of law.

What will happen?

When the government sends you a target letter, it might be asking you to join them at the negotiating table so that you can take a plea and avoid a situation where you will be formally indicted. In this case, the prosecutor will provide some information but not as much as what would happen in a court of law. At this stage, you and your lawyer should consider the information that the government has and what is likely to happen if the case goes to trial. In case you take the plea, chances are that the government will not press charges in court.

If the government has no intentions of prosecuting you, your lawyers will liaise with the prosecutor and later with you with the aim of making a presentation and why the prosecution should not initiate charges against you. It is the role of the lawyer to cushion the client from the prosecution at the earliest possible stage. It is therefore important to get a qualified lawyer who understands these issues.

The fact that you have received a target letter does not mean that you’ll ever be prosecuted. You can receive it yet nothing will ever happen to you. Maybe the prosecutor was reassigned to another case or retired.

What To Do First If You Receive A Target Letter

If you are the target of a grand jury investigation, you will receive a letter from the federal prosecutor or the Department of Justice informing you of the matter. This letter, which is called a target letter, means that a federal law enforcement agency is actively investigating you for one or more federal crimes. More than that, it indicates that there is substantial evidence against you. However, a target letter does not mean that you are definitely going to prison or even that you may be indicted by a grand jury. It is simply the first step in a lengthy criminal process. You understandably need to step lightly when you are the target of a criminal investigation, so what should you do at this point?

Hire a Defense Attorney
One of the most important initial steps that you should take after receiving a target letter is to hire a criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can review the letter and provide you with detailed guidance covering the next steps. Hiring the right lawyer at this early stage in the legal process is crucial. Criminal defense lawyers generally have specialized experience with specific types of federal crimes. Target letters are often associated with white-collar crimes, but many crimes fall under this umbrella. A lawyer with experience defending clients in racketeering cases may not have experience with securities fraud or blackmail, for example. With this in mind, you should spend time identifying experienced lawyers serving your area with detailed, relevant knowledge.

Put Your Lawyer in the Driver’s Seat
During an initial consultation with your new criminal defense attorney, he or she will review the target letter closely. Your target letter will outline the crimes that you are being investigated for, and it will state your legal rights. For example, target letters often mention the Fifth Amendment, which covers self-incrimination. The letter may also have specific instructions, such as those related to cooperating with law enforcement officials, not destroying evidence and more. Some letters specifically ask the target to appear in front of a grand jury as a next step. It is important to let your lawyer take the lead. He or she will contact the prosecution and make other arrangements as necessary.

Gather Facts About the Investigation
Many federal criminal investigations for white-collar crimes and other types of crimes may last for months or years. The target of an investigation may receive a target letter at any point in the investigation. Your criminal defense lawyer should be able to research the matter. By doing so, you can determine if the prosecution has already built a strong case against you or if the investigation is in an early stage. This distinction can impact the steps that your lawyer takes to establish a defense, and it will steer the legal process going forward.

Discuss Your Options
If you hire an attorney who has considerable experience with target letters and federal grand jury investigations, he or she will be aware of strategies for proceeding on solid footing. For example, if the investigation has progressed and the prosecution is close to seeking an indictment, your attorney may structure a plea deal. By doing so, you may avoid a lengthy trial. You may also receive a lighter sentence based on your plea. If the investigation is in its infancy, on the other hand, some attorneys may be able to get the prosecution to drop the case. The specific strategies and outcomes will vary greatly based on the circumstances of the case. In all situations, you should closely follow the guidance of your defense attorney so that you can more fully take advantage of his or her services.

Learn About the Federal Criminal Process
If this is your first experience with the federal criminal process, you understandably may not know what to expect. By learning more about the process, you may be able to reduce your stress level and have a better idea about the actions you and your lawyer should take. Keep in mind that your lawyer should communicate openly with you about the process as the case progresses. A grand jury investigation may result in a formal indictment. An arrest warrant will be issued, and you will officially be charged with a crime. You will then have an initial court appearance. This occurs within 72 hours after the arrest. The court will decide on matters related to bail and pretrial detention. The process then progresses to discovery, and initial motions may be filed. If a plea bargain has not already been reached, it may be negotiated at this time. A plea bargain must be approved by the judge. Later stages in the federal criminal defense process are the trial, sentencing, post-trial motions and appeals.

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