Have You Received a Target Letter from the Federal Government?

The United States Attorney’s Office sends a target letter to notify recipients that they are a subject (or ‘target’) of an ongoing federal investigation. This letter informs the target that the federal government believes that the target has committed a federal crime.

The letter will also inform the target of several things relevant to the investigation, including:

  • Information about the existence of a federal grand jury investigation.
  • The fact that the target may plead the fifth so as not to incriminate themselves.
  • Basic information about the crimes at the heart of the investigation.
  • Notice that the target may hire legal counsel or otherwise obtain court-appointed counsel.

Sometimes, a target letter is the first indication that an individual receives to inform them that a federal investigation is underway, and you should understand that it is likely you are going to be indicted. The letter may also advise you that destroying relevant evidence can be charged as an obstruction of justice.

What Crimes Are Typically Associated with Target Letters from the Federal Government?

Violent crimes are not typically associated with target letters and federal investigations. Target letters usually relate to white-collar crimes and non-violent crimes that were perpetrated for financial gain or power.

White-collar crimes commonly linked to target letters include:

  • Bribery.
  • Embezzlement.
  • Falsification of financial records.
  • Fraud.
  • Insider trading.
  • Ponzi schemes.
  • Wage theft.

Is the Federal Government Required to Send Target Letters?

No. If they do decide to send one, the government often tries to let its targets know they’re under investigation at the last moment. They withhold their intention to indict their targets for fear that the targets might destroy evidence or flee the country if the target learns of the criminal investigation.

How Should You Respond to a Target Letter from the Feds?

First of all, try not to panic. You should speak with an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer right away, and they will help you determine how to proceed. It’s possible that the correct course of action is to cooperate with government investigators. Your defense attorney will help you weigh your options so that you can work out how to reach the best outcome for you.

Many target letters ask the subject of the investigation to perform some task. This may involve testifying before a grand jury, turning over evidence, or sitting down for a meeting with the US attorney assigned to the federal investigation. Before doing anything, consult with your legal representatives. Your federal criminal defense attorneys will likely contact the United States attorney overseeing your case on your behalf to discuss the investigation. You should not contact the federal government or any investigator yourself, because it really is true that they will use whatever you say against you. Let your lawyer do the initial talking!

Is an Indictment Definitely Imminent?

It is natural to believe that a target letter inevitably leads to an indictment. However, this is not always the case. While an indictment is likely to follow, sometimes the investigation fails to gather the evidence needed to indict. Other times, your defense lawyer may be able to persuade the United States attorney to close their investigation.

How Long Before the Government Makes Their Decision to Indict?

There are federal statutes of limitations governing when the government must bring charges against someone and your lawyer will be able to explain to you how they may apply..

Will the Government Notify You if You’re No Longer a Target for an Indictment?

The government may decide not to indict, but rarely, if ever, tells anyone they are no longer a target of an investigation or that they would never be charged.

Who Can You Talk To?

Do not speak to the US attorney, FBI agents or anyone else investigating you. Any comments you make in talks with the feds can be used against you in a court of law. You also should not speak to anyone else implicated in the crimes.

Such discussions may similarly be used against you at a later date. You should not discuss the case with anyone, even family members. The only way to protect client/lawyer confidentiality is to keep legal discussions between you and your attorney.

Do You Have the Legal Option to File to Dismiss the Letter?

A target letter is not a court document filed in a case. In fact, it means there is no case yet before the court, so there is nothing for a Judge to dismiss. The letter simply exists to notify the target that an investigation has begun.

Do You Need to Speak with a Lawyer?

You may feel so confident in your innocence that you believe you do not need a lawyer, deciding instead to represent yourself in the federal investigation. This is incredibly unwise. The federal government does not send a target letter or build an investigation idly. If they’re investigating you, they believe you committed a crime for which they can indict and convict you.

You absolutely must respect the seriousness of these implications. Our law firm has experience representing clients in federal and state investigations. To discuss your case in more detail with our legal team, please contact our law offices to schedule a free consultation. You may call our firm at any time at (540) 384-4585.