WHAT TO DO IF YOU BECOME THE TARGET OF A FEDERAL CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
What is a target letter?
A target letter is a letter from a federal prosecutor informing you that you are the target of a federal investigation. This means that the government thinks you have knowledge of, or that you participated in, a federal crime.
If you have received a target letter, it does not mean you are the subject of a federal investigation. However, you could become a defendant in a criminal prosecution.
The United States Department of Justice has an example of a target letter posted on their website: United States Department of Justice – Target Letter .
What information is in a target letter?
A target letter usually contains the following information:
- The crimes against you that are being investigated by the Department of Justice
- A deadline by when you must contact the government
- May ask you to voluntarily testify before a grand jury
- May require you to testify before a grand jury
The letter usually has the name and contact information of an Assistant United States Attorney and/or federal law enforcement agent. Some letters will ask you to meet with the Assistant United States Attorney and/or law enforcement agent investigating the case. It is important to contact an attorney before the deadline contained in the target letter. If you received the letter and need additional time to hire an attorney, you should contact the government agent and tell them that you need additional time. You should not discuss anything about the case with that person, and only tell them that you have contacted an attorney and that the attorney will be contacting them shortly.
Some of the federal agencies that investigate federal activity are:
- DEA Drug Enforcement Agency
- ATF Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
- FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation
- USPS United States Postal Service
- ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- IRS Internal Revenue Service
What should you do if you receive a target letter?
You should contact a federal criminal defense attorney as soon as you get a target letter. Do not contact the prosecutor or any federal agents first. Anything you say to them can be used against you.
Should you cooperate with the government?
The government may be sending you a target letter rather than Indicting you and/or having you arrested because they think that you (as the subject of their investigation) might cooperate and provide valuable information about other individuals.
It is important to keep in mind that if you do decide to cooperate, the longer you wait to provide information to the government, the less valuable your information may become. This depends on how many other individuals in the same investigation are already cooperating (or will be cooperating) with the government and whether or not the information is time sensitive.
Although you will not be promised anything in exchange for cooperation, there are many potential benefits to cooperating with the government that must be balanced against the possible consequences. If you are given an option to cooperate, you will have to make some very difficult decisions—and quickly.
For information more about Proffers and Cooperation, visit our website at https://koffskyfelsen.com.
What can an attorney do to help if you get a target letter?
Your attorney may be able to:
- Discuss details about the investigation with the Assistant United States attorney or law enforcement agent
- Find out what stage the government is at in its investigation and how they plan to proceed
- Determine what information is relevant to share with the government
- Provide evidence and information that may be helpful to your position
- Convince the government that it is not in the interests of justice to prosecute you
- Negotiate a plea agreement between you and the government
Sometimes, your attorney can also arrange for you to meet with law enforcement and the government to do what is called a “reverse proffer.” During a reverse proffer, the agents and government will tell you about their investigation, what evidence they have against you, and how they would proceed if you went to trial.
You need to have a good relationship with your attorney and provide your lawyer with any information you think may be relevant to your defense. All conversations with your attorney are protected by attorney-client privilege, which means anything you tell your attorney is confidential. Your attorney needs to know as much as possible about you and any information you have related to the offense and/or individuals being investigated – this information will allow your attorney to help you make an informed decision about your best course of action.
Every case is different and the outcome of your case will depend on a variety of factors. It is important to get an experienced federal criminal defense attorney involved in the process as soon as possible to ensure that you do not incriminate yourself and that you make an informed assessment of the risks and rewards associated with being investigated or prosecuted by the federal government.
If you have received a target letter from the federal government, or if you have been contacted by any federal agency and you think you are or are about to become the subject of a federal criminal investigation, contact the Law Offices of Koffsky & Felsen, LLC at 203-327-1500.