Have you received a target letter from a federal investigative agency? If so, you probably feel alarmed and anxious right now and may not know what to do next.
Having more information about target letters can be a good step in helping to understand your next steps.
What is a target letter?
It is a formal notification from federal authorities that they consider you a potential target in a criminal investigation. It often precedes a summons to appear before a grand jury for questioning.
The target letter may contain details about the matter under investigation and your potential involvement. Therefore, you need to ensure that you read the document carefully.
Who can send them?
The authority to send a target letter is primarily given to certain federal agencies or officials. Here are three examples:
- U.S. attorneys
- Criminal divisions within the Department of Justice (DOJ)
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Other federal agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), may also issue target letters to parties of interest.
Are they mandatory?
No, they aren’t. The government is not required to inform individuals about their target status and may not if officials fear the person will flee or destroy evidence. Receiving a target letter may suggest that the government believes it can gain your cooperation.
What should you do if you receive one?
Immediately exercise your Fifth Amendment rights and talk to no one about the investigation. Most importantly, do not answer questions from prosecutors or federal representatives on your own.
Another critical early step is to obtain legal representation, even if you’re not yet charged with a federal crime. Doing so allows you to assess your situation objectively, explore possible defenses and may prevent you from saying or doing something to worsen the matter.