Target letters are sent from the U.S. Department of Justice or a U.S. Attorney’s Office to notify you that you are going to be called to testify before a federal grand jury about criminal activity you either allegedly engaged in or know about. In other words, if you receive a target letter, you are either the target of a federal investigation or a person whom the U.S. Attorney believes has information that would be helpful to an investigation.
While a target letter does not necessarily mean you will be indicted for a federal crime, it does mean you have been identified and are being investigated for having been involved in or having knowledge about a serious crime. Undoubtedly, you will soon receive or have already received a subpoena to testify before the grand jury. What should you do?
Hire an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney
Before panicking or taking any other action, be sure to consult with an experienced federal defense attorney. In fact, at this point, hiring a skilled defense attorney should be your top priority, since the government has obviously already invested time and resources into investigating and building a case about a crime that involves you.
Your attorney can help you interpret the federal statutes cited in the target letter and decide how to respond to the government. The letter will give you a deadline to contact them that you cannot miss without severe consequences, so hiring a federal defense attorney as soon as possible is paramount.
If the company where you are employed is being investigated also, there will certainly be attorneys representing them. Although it may seem as if these lawyers could also represent you, hiring your own federal defense attorney is actually in your best interest. The business’s attorneys will put the company’s best interests first, and may not look out for you at all.
Follow Your Attorney’s Advice on Not Discussing Your Case
Your attorney will tell you definitely not to discuss your involvement in a crime or potentially illegal scheme with federal agents or prosecutors. It is more likely than not that what you say will be used against you and that you will actually hurt your defense rather than help it. Even if the target letter encourages you to contact the prosecutor to discuss matters, don’t contact the prosecutor yourself; play it safe and let your attorney do the talking on your behalf.
Your discussions with other people could also be used against you if they are subpoenaed for the grand jury or a trial. Unfortunately, prosecutors can make even an innocuous discussion sound criminal and people you know could actually be working as informants for the government, so most likely, your attorney will advise you not to talk about your case with others.
Your attorney will also be able to advise you more specifically on the topics you should and should not discuss with anyone, including those closest to you, as well as the techniques the government could be using to investigate you. It’s in your best interest to keep in mind that the federal government can tap your phone, search your home, and search your workplace.
Retain an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney to Protect Your Rights and Your Future
Whether you’re allegedly involved in a federal financial (white collar) crime or other federal crime, an experienced federal defense attorney can help protect your rights and fight for your best outcome through all stages of the investigation and prosecution. The key is to make sure you hire an attorney who is experienced and has a successful track record defending clients in federal cases.
Protecting Your Rights during a Federal Investigation
A federal grand jury investigation does not have to specify the target of its investigation and has few limitations. This means that individuals who are not initially a target of a federal grand jury investigation can subsequently become targets or eventually be arrested and prosecuted. Therefore, it’s important to hire a federal criminal defense attorney as early as possible during the investigation.
An experienced federal defense attorney, especially one with previous experience as a federal prosecutor, will be familiar with the nuances, complexities, and strategies of federal investigations and be able to advocate effectively on your behalf. It may, in fact, be in your best interest to invoke your constitutional right to remain silent and allow your attorney to engage in investigative conversations with the prosecution team.
Keep in mind that federal grand jury procedures are complicated, and your attorney’s ability to communicate effectively with federal agents and federal prosecutors matters.
Handling Evidence during a Federal Investigation
When you are notified of a federal investigation, you must be extremely careful with how you handle any and all evidence in your possession. Destroying or altering records, even if you are making simple corrections, can result in obstruction of justice charges. Therefore, consulting with your attorney before taking any action is extremely important.
Even if you or your company were not involved in any criminal activity, but you altered records after receiving a grand jury subpoena, you could be subjected to criminal charges. In fact, in some instances, the mere disclosure of a federal grand jury subpoena can result in criminal charges.
In addition, an experienced federal defense attorney can help you save time and expenses when gathering the required documents and records. Grand jury subpoena requests for these items are often very broad, but an experienced federal defense attorney can coordinate a response with the federal prosecutor that is more specifically tailored to the case and, therefore, more efficient.
Responding to a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena
If you or your company receives a federal grand jury subpoena, an attorney familiar federal procedures can help you formulate an appropriate response. Your lawyer will be able to determine whether you are a witness merely providing evidence against others or if you are actually a target of the investigation.
In some cases, you can benefit from cooperating with the government, and your attorney can help you decide if this is in your best interest. To make this decision, you and your attorney will need to carefully and expeditiously weigh all factors, such as the advantages of cooperating with the government, your chances of winning at trial, and your probable sentence if you lose at trial.
An experienced federal attorney might also be able to obtain a favorable outcome using other strategies. Depending on the specifics of the case, it might be possible to persuade the prosecutor to close the investigation or reclassify you as a witness rather than the target. If, on the other hand, a criminal indictment is imminent, your attorney may be able to negotiate a favorable pre-indictment plea agreement. Finally, if you are indicted and your case goes to trial, your attorney will develop the strongest strategic defense possible to fight for your rights and your freedom.
Experienced, Skilled Former Federal Prosecutor in Florida
When you are being investigated by the federal government, going to testify for a federal grand jury, meeting with federal agents, or going to trial in a federal criminal case, you need a highly skilled, experienced federal defense attorney in your corner. No one is better prepared to help you at every stage of the process than someone who has both federal prosecution and defense experience.
Call Haas Law today or submit the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website for the knowledge, depth of experience, and record of success you need.