What To Do First If You Get A Target Letter

If you get a letter from a federal prosecutor that says that you are the target of a grand jury investigation, then you’ve received what’s called a target letter. Here’s a link to three sample target letters – if what you’ve received looks like any of these, then this page is for you.

Hire a Lawyer (and How to Hire a Lawyer)

Admittedly, telling you to hire a lawyer is probably obvious and not terribly helpful. If you’re on this page, you’re probably already in the process of hiring a lawyer. You may have scheduled some calls or appointments and be waiting for a call back. Or you may be trying to figure out how to hire a lawyer.

You know to hire a lawyer. You’re on it. Here are answers to other questions you likely have while you’re waiting to hear back.

Should I Do What the Letter Asks?

First, as you’ll see in the sample target letters, the letter almost always asks you to do something. Some ask you to come to a meeting with the Assistant United States Attorney Investigating the Case. Some as you to come and voluntarily testify before the grand jury. And some ask you to get a lawyer and have the lawyer call the prosecutor.

Regardless of what the letter asks you to do, the smartest move is to hire a lawyer and have that lawyer reach out to the prosecutor. (See above)

You may be tempted to call the prosecutor and explain what happened. Really, don’t. It’ll be used against you. In general you should think long and hard about whether you should talk to federal law enforcement – and that includes the prosecutor who is trying to secure an indictment against you.

What Is a “Target”?

In a federal criminal investigation people are put into three different categories: witness, subject and target. If you’re a target, that means that the investigation is looking into you. The law enforcement agent and the prosecutor think you did something illegal, and they’re investigating that.

It’s different than being a subject – there, the feds think that something illegal happened, and a subject may know something about it, but they aren’t necessarily trying to prosecute that person.

Basically, being a target is the worst place to be in an investigation.

What Will Happen?

There are a few options.

It may be that the government is locked in on you and is sending a target letter in order to get you to negotiate a plea now, so they don’t have to go to the trouble of indicting you. The AUSA will give your lawyer some information – but not as much as if charges are brought against you. You and your lawyer can talk about what they have, talk about how likely it is that you’ll be convicted if the case goes to trial, and see what the government’s offering. Maybe you plead, or maybe you don’t. If you don’t, the government is likely to bring charges.

Or, if the government isn’t locked in on prosecuting you, your lawyer has some room to maneuver. He can meet with the prosecutor and the agent and see what they’re looking at. Then he can meet with you and prepare a presentation to make to the prosecutor about why you shouldn’t be prosecuted. My law firm has had success with that, but every case is different and it really depends on the case.

Finally, sometimes you just get lucky. A prosecutor is reassigned to another case. The case agent who really wants the prosecution to go forward retires. How much to bet on naked luck is always a hard decision, and, generally, the more work the government has put into the case the less likely they are to walk away even if a key person is reassigned.

One More Thing

From here on out, how you respond can be used against you. Make sure you don’t make your case worse. Please watch this video on what not to do.

But, really, hire a lawyer.
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