A federal criminal investigation often involves several law enforcement agencies and may span months, even years. If you are part of that investigation, the federal government may send you a “target letter” notifying you that you are the target of a federal grand jury investigation. Knowing what to do if you receive a target letter is crucial to protecting your rights and your future.
At Haas Law, we have considerable experience representing clients in federal criminal investigations and prosecutions. We know what to do if you are the target of a federal investigation, and we are committed to protecting your rights throughout the investigation process as well as defending you if the investigation results in a prosecution.
What Is a Target Letter?
When the federal government investigates a crime, significant time and resources are typically invested in the investigation. If you are notified that you are a target of that investigation, you should assume that a federal law enforcement agency was watching, listening, and gathering evidence against you for a significant period of time prior to issuing you a “target letter.”
Target letters are most often used as part of a “white-collar” criminal investigation. The term “white-collar crime” is used to refer to nonviolent crimes committed by individuals, businesses, and government professionals. White-collar criminals are financially motivated, either to obtain or avoid losing money, property, or services and/or to obtain or avoid losing a business advantage. Common examples of white-collar crimes include securities fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and tax evasion.
A target letter is sent by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) or an agency related to the conduct being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices. Information that should be included in a target letter includes:
- The recipient’s status as a target in a federal investigation
- The nature of the alleged crime (usually including the federal statutes alleged to have been violated)
- The recipient’s Constitutional rights
- Deadlines or requests.
Steps to Take If You Receive a Target Letter
If you receive a target letter the worst thing you can do is to do nothing. A target letter frequently means that you will soon be (or already are) facing federal criminal charges. To protect your rights and preserve any defenses you may have to the charges filed against you, take the following steps if you receive a target letter:
- Read the letter carefully. It can be extremely disconcerting to receive a target letter; however, try to remain calm and carefully read through the letter to gather vital information. Specifically, look for the underlying criminal offense that is the reason for the investigation and look for any dates or deadlines. The letter may include a request, such as a request to contact a federal prosecutor or testify in front of a grand jury. Do not comply with any of these requests without first speaking to an attorney; however, write them down, so you can inform your attorney during your initial consultation.
- Contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. Do not wait to consult with a federal defense attorney. Although a target letter does not always mean charges will be filed against you, the odds are likely that you will soon be facing federal criminal charges. Your best chance of preventing that from happening is to get an experienced attorney involved immediately. Moreover, if charges are ultimately filed against you, your attorney will be better prepared to defend you.
- Do not try to hide or destroy evidence. Your knee-jerk reaction may be to try and hide or destroy any potentially incriminating evidence. Doing so, however, could lead to a separate charge for obstruction of justice.
- Do not contact the prosecutor/law enforcement officers involved. The target letter may ask you to contact the federal prosecutor or investigator handling the case. This is a request, not a court order. Do not honor that request before consulting with an attorney. If your attorney decides that a meeting is in your best interest, your attorney will arrange one and attend the meeting with you.
- Do not contact individuals who may have been involved in the alleged crime or who may have had knowledge of it. It is natural to want to reach out to friends and colleagues during difficult times, but communicating with others who are possibly also being investigated could potentially jeopardize your defense.
- Remain silent. Do not discuss the underlying allegations with anyone (except your attorney). The attorney-client privilege protects your conversation with your attorney; however, anyone else could be forced to testify against you if the case goes to trial.
Get Help from Experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If you recently received a target letter from the federal government, do not panic. Contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately to ensure that your rights are protected and potentially prevent the investigation from becoming a prosecution.
The experienced federal criminal defense attorneys at Haas Law will evaluate the letter and advise you on how best to proceed. We are dedicated to using our extensive experience and resources to protect and defend you when you find yourself in the middle of a federal government criminal investigation.
Call us at 407-755-7675, chat with us online, or submit our online form today. Because we understand that time is of the essence when federal law enforcement authorities are investigating you, our calls are answered 24 hours a day, allowing you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.