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.
Request a Legal Consultation Today
At Raiser & Kenniff Law Group, our team of attorneys is available to represent you throughout the grand jury investigation and beyond. The best time to reach out to a criminal defense attorney is as soon as you receive a target letter. To learn more about our legal services and to request a free initial consultation, contact Raiser & Kenniff Law Group Today