Facing a criminal investigation?

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What To Do First If You Receive A Target Letter

What Is a Target Letter?

The federal government sends target letters when it is investigating a federal crime. Recipients of target letters have information that the federal government needs to investigate the case. The target letter may also request that the recipient perform an action. For example, you may receive a target letter requesting your presence in a meeting with the Assistant U.S. District Attorney.

Target letters contain valuable information that you need to know before you can move forward. This includes the following:

  • The crime that the government is investigating.
  • The federal statutes that you are accused of violating.
  • The right to assert your constitutional rights.
  • Any important deadlines.

If you receive a target letter, the federal government believes that it has evidence that you committed a federal crime. Therefore, the federal government is likely to charge you in a criminal court.

What to Do First…

If you received a target letter, you must promptly respond to this letter. Failure to do so could result in serious penalties, but you must not do this alone. Therefore, the first thing that you need to do is hire a criminal defense attorney. If a federal agent contacts you, you must not answer this person’s questions without your attorney. However, if a federal agent asks you any questions before you have a lawyer, you must not lie or deny anything. Lying or denying the charges could open you up to an obstruction of justice charge. Let the agent know that you will communicate with him or her as soon as you hire an attorney.

If you haven’t received a target letter at this point, the federal government will send you one after you refuse to cooperate in the investigation. Then, the federal government may ask you to submit to an interview. They may ask you to appear before the grand jury. You must not do either of these things unless you have an attorney. Your attorney will explain the process to you in detail and communicate with the federal government from now on. Then, your attorney will begin to prepare your defense.

Who May Send a Target Letter?

The Department of Justice sends target letters. Specifically, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices are in charge of sending target letters. You may also receive a target letter from an agency that is assisting the DOJ in the investigation. These agencies include the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC, the Department of Homeland Security or DHS, the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB and the Internal Revenue Service or IRS.

Target, Witness or Subject…

You will not necessarily know whether you are a target of an investigation, a witness or a subject. Because you may be unsure of this one point, it is highly important that you hire a defense attorney. You may only be a witness in the investigation, but you still need to have a lawyer.

If the federal government has substantial evidence that links you to a crime, you will be a “target” of the investigation. If this is the case, it is very likely that you may be indicted, so it is of the utmost importance that you hire an attorney. You may also be a “subject” of the investigation. The subject of an investigation is connected in some way to the crime. It’s possible that the government could charge you with wrongdoing. A “witness” has information that the government needs to prove that a crime occurred. It may be your testimony or physical evidence. It’s possible that the evidence in your possession could incriminate you. Therefore, even if you are only a witness, you will still need to retain an attorney to protect your Fifth Amendment rights.

If You Are in Possession of Evidence…

If you are a subject or a target of the investigation, the federal government may send you a target letter that mentions this evidence. If you have this evidence, you must not destroy it for the purpose of weakening the government’s case. Destroying evidence can lead to a charge of “obstruction of justice,” and the government attorney will charge you with this crime. Rather than destroy any evidence you have, gather all the evidence you can that can help your attorney develop a strong defense for you.

Pay Close Attention to the Dates in Your Target Letter...

Your letter may have deadlines by which you will need to present documentation. It may also give you the dates that you need to present yourself in front of the grand jury. You would receive a subpoena from the grand Jury that lists the documents you must take on the day you will need to testify. The subpoena also tells you where you need to go, the date you need to be there and the time.

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