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What is a “Target Letter” and What Should You Do if You Get One?

People often panic when they receive a “target letter” from the Department of Justice, and rightly so. If you get one, you will need to know the legal implications of a target letter and what to do after receiving one. 

A Washington criminal defense attorney can protect your legal rights and aggressively defend you. Let’s explore what is a “target letter” and what should you do if you get one?

What is a Target Letter?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) or a U.S. Attorney’s Office sends out target letters as formal notice that you are somehow involved in a federal criminal investigation of a white-collar crime. The investigation might have been in progress for several months or even years before you receive a target letter, or they might have just started the investigation recently.

The target letter means that the DOJ intends to call you to testify in front of a federal grand jury in the near future. Sometimes, the individual does not receive the target letter until after they get subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury.

Who Gets Target Letters?

You can receive a target letter if the DOJ thinks that you are either the target or the subject of a grand jury investigation. A target of a grand jury investigation is someone the DOJ believes committed a crime. The prosecutor is supposed to have substantial evidence that links the target to the crime. The odds are that the DOJ will indict you for the alleged crime.

If you are the subject of a grand jury investigation, as opposed to the target of one, that means the DOJ does not yet think you committed the crime, but you have information they think will be useful to their investigation of the criminal activity. They consider you merely a witness at this time, but you could become a target and face a possible indictment as evidence surfaces during the investigation.

What Should You Do as Soon as You Receive a Target Letter?

It might be tempting to pick up the telephone and call the contact person in the target letter, but that is one of the worst things you can do. Everything you say to the federal agents or investigators can and will be used against you. You do not have to be in a courtroom for your words to become evidence.

Your first call should be to a defense lawyer who handles federal financial crimes. By contacting a criminal defense attorney immediately, it is possible sometimes to negotiate terms that avoid having criminal charges filed against you. Other options could include limiting the scope of the grand jury investigation, having you considered as a witness and not a target, or persuading the prosecutor to close the investigation. 

You will want the delicate navigation of the grand jury investigation process to be in the hands of a skilled defense attorney rather than trying to handle it yourself as a DIY project. Think of these cases as sophisticated medical procedures. You do not want to perform surgery on yourself.

A Washington criminal defense attorney can talk to you and provide defense and guidance. Contact our office today.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.