Contact Us for a Free Consultation (877) 781-1570


What Is a Federal Target Letter?

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Feb 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

If you are involved in a federal criminal investigation, you might be considered a witness, subject or a target. If you receive a target letter from a federal prosecutor or the Department of Justice informing you that you are the actual target of a grand jury investigation, then you need to understand it means they have a reason to believe you were involved in committing some type of federal crime.

Target letters normally ask you to take a certain action, such as meeting with an Assistant United States Attorney who is investigating a case, voluntarily testify before the grand jury, or some will even ask you to retain an attorney and have them call the federal prosecutor.

Federal Target Letter

Whatever the target letter is asking you to do, the best strategy is to immediately consult with a federal criminal attorney and let them handle all communication with the prosecutor or federal law enforcement agents.

There are many people who have received target letters and then consider the idea of contacting the prosecutor or federal agents themselves to find out what its's all about. This is a mistake.

They are not your friend and certainly not on your side. They are well paid to build criminal cases and obtain convictions. That's what they do. Anything you say will be used against you. Remember, a prosecutor might be trying to secure an indictment against you.

Target letters are often used in federal fraud related cases and other types of serious federal criminal cases.  If you receive a target letter, then it's often the first clue you are under a criminal investigation for a federal crime.

It's crucial to note that if you received a target letter from the federal government, then there are specific steps to need to take right away in order to protect yourself. There are also some things you must avoid.

To give readers a better understanding of what you need to do if you received a target letter, our federal criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

Target Letters and Federal Criminal Investigations

During a criminal investigation for a federal offense, a suspect could receive a letter informing them they are the “target” in a criminal investigation. These type of letters are common in the investigation of white collar crimes, but are also used for other types of crimes, such as federal drug offenses.

For any suspect who receives such as letter, taking them lightly or even just ignoring them, can be a life-changing mistake.

In simple terms, a “target letter” is a notification that the federal government believes you are somehow involved in criminal activity. It could mean they believe you either participated in a crime, or that you have some type of knowledge about the crime.

The target letter is a formal notice you will be called to give testimony to a federal grand jury or you are going to be charged for a federal crime. If you received a target letter, then you will probably also receive a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury.

A target letter will usually describe the alleged crime under investigation by the United States Department of Justice and the grand jury.  In many cases, the letter will also list the federal statutes connected to the criminal investigation. The letter also will usually have a deadline date for contacting the government. If you miss the deadline and don't make contact, there could be some harsh consequences.

The letter will typically include the name and contact information of a federal agent or federal prosecutor who is handling the case. You should never contact them without first consulting with a federal criminal defense lawyer.

What Should I Do First If I Received a Federal Target Letter?

If you have received a target letter, then you need to immediately call a federal criminal defense attorney to review the details and options. It should be noted you are not legally required to retain a federal criminal lawyer after receiving a target letter, but it's clearly in your best interest to do so.

In a situation where you are an employee of a business under federal criminal investigation, you need to consult with your own private federal lawyer. The lawyers representing the business will have their own best interest in mind.

In other words, depending on the attorney who is representing the business to have your best interest in mind is a huge mistake. Protect yourself because your business could throw you under the bus to protect their best interest.

It should be noted that not all federal criminal lawyers have a complete understanding on all the implications of target letter. This is because not all lawyers have experience in dealing with federal criminal cases.

After you have received a federal target letter, there are many crucial decisions that have to be made quickly. Just the fact you received a target letter means the government believes you are a low risk of fleeing the state or a person they believe might cooperate with federal law enforcement agents. Any unnecessary delay in properly responding to the target letter might forfeit the opportunity to voluntarily cooperate.

Once a target letter is received, then you have a couple of different paths you could take. You could decide to make no contact with federal law enforcement and just wait and see if there is a grand jury indictment. Then, you will retain a federal lawyer and fight the charges.

You could also decide to cooperate and help federal law enforcement with their investigation by setting up an interview, commonly known as a “proffer.” During the proffer with the federal agents and prosecutors, along with your lawyer, you can take responsibility for the crime, mitigate to reduce the types of charges filed, and reduce the potential offense level scoring that is described under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Our Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help You

Federal criminal cases are complex and the federal government has almost unlimited resources to investigate and pursue a conviction. Federal prosecutors are typically highly experienced and motivated to prove their case against you.

This means you will need to consult with federal criminal defense attorneys who have experience and a track record of success defending clients against federal charges. This includes a lawyer who knows how to effectively negotiate with prosecutors to reach a favorable resolution on your case.

We regularly practice in federal criminal courts throughout the United States. We understand how prosecutors will build a criminal case and know how to challenge the aggressive investigated tactics of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. Marshals, and others.

We can guide you through every step of the federal criminal justice system. After you receive a target letter, effective and timely communication with federal agents and federal prosecutors is crucial.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a criminal defense law firm representing clients nationwide against any type of federal offense. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. We also have an office in the San Fernando Valley area of LA County located at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact us for a consultation at (877) 781-1570.

Categorised in:

About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today

Eisner Gorin LLP is committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense law issues in Los Angeles, California.

We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Van Nuys/Encino Headquarters
16000 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1000
Encino, CA 91436
Los Angeles Office
2121 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 800
Los Angeles, CA 90067