I received a target letter in the mail. Now what?
If you received a target letter, you need a lawyer immediately — no question about it. And you need a lawyer who has experience working through the federal court system.
The sooner you retain a competent lawyer during the pre-indictment process, the better off you will be. Hopefully, your lawyer can guide you through the grand jury process, can negotiate with federal prosecutors early on and can get the investigation either closed or focused on the proper things that will benefit you.
Some federal investigations take years to complete. They begin with suspicious activity or crimes that are reported. After a report is made, federal law enforcement officials (the F.B.I., Border Patrol, I.C.E., etc.) get involved — and that typically results in a grand jury investigation and subsequent indictment.
Citizens can be investigated for months, even years, and never know it. If a grand jury is investigating you, and prosecutors are considering bringing you in before the grand jury to “explain some things,” it is the policy of the U.S. Department of Justice to advise you of your rights if you are a target or subject of a grand jury investigation.
A “target letter” is how they advise you of your rights.
If you are a target of a federal investigation, the government thinks they have “substantial evidence” linking you to a crime, and the prosecutor believes you will likely be indicted. If you are a ”subject” of a grand jury investigation, your conduct is merely “within the scope” of the grand jury’s investigation. As a “subject” they probably just want some information from you, but you can never be sure.
A sample letter may look something like this example taken straight from the United States Attorney’s Manual:
“This letter is supplied to a witness scheduled to appear before the federal Grand Jury in order to provide helpful background information about the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury consists of from sixteen to twenty-three persons from the District of ___. It is their responsibility to inquire into federal crimes which may have been committed in this District.
As a Grand Jury witness you will be asked to testify and answer questions, and to produce records and documents. Only the members of the Grand Jury, attorneys for the United States and a stenographer are permitted in the Grand Jury room while you testify. We advise you that the Grand Jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving, but not necessarily limited to, __________.
You are advised that the destruction or alteration of any document required to be produced before the grand jury constitutes serious violation of federal law, including but not limited to Obstruction of Justice. You are advised that you are a target of the Grand Jury’s investigation. You may refuse to answer any question if a truthful answer to the question would tend to incriminate you.
Anything that you do or say may be used against you in a subsequent legal proceeding. If you have retained counsel, who represents you personally, the Grand Jury will permit you a reasonable opportunity to step outside the Grand Jury room and confer with counsel if you desire.
[Name of prosecuting attorney].”
The bottom line is this:
If you receive a target letter, you are most likely going to be indicted in a criminal matter. Get a competent lawyer on it, and be ready for the shoe to drop. If you receive a target letter, give me a call right away.
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