Receiving mail from the Department of Justice (DOJ) is not an everyday event for most people. If you recently received just such a letter from the DOJ and find a Target Letter inside, you are probably worried about what the letter means and wondering what you should do next. The one thing you should not do is ignore the letter.
A Target Letter means you are directly in the cross hairs of a federal criminal investigation, which is something you must take seriously and act on immediately. You need an experienced, committed, and resourceful Florida target letter defense lawyer at Jonathon Rose P.A. on your side as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected moving forward and to prepare an aggressive defense if formal charges are filed against you.
What Is a Target Letter?
Most people have never heard of a “Target Letter” because they are only used in federal criminal investigations, and even then, only for certain types of criminal investigations. When a state law enforcement agency is conducting a criminal investigation, they do not formally notify you that you are a target of that investigation; however, the U.S. Department of Justice sometimes does just that by sending out a “Target Letter.”
Target Letters are typically used, if it all, in federal investigations for “white-collar crimes.” Although not an official legal term, “white-collar crime” is commonly used to refer to nonviolent, financially motivated crimes committed by individuals, businesses, and government professionals. PPP fraud, healthcare fraud, bank fraud, tax evasion, public corruption, and money laundering are examples of “white collar” criminal offenses.
As the name implies, a Target Letter is sent to someone who is the “target” of a federal criminal investigation. According to the Department of Justice attorney manual, a “target” is “a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.” Along with informing you that you are a target of a federal investigation, a Target Letter should contain:
- The nature of the alleged crime, including the federal statutes alleged to have been violated.
- Your Constitutional rights as a target and potential defendant.
- Deadlines for responses and/or requests for documents or contact.
What Does a Target Letter Mean to Me?
If you received a Target Letter from the DOJ (or an affiliated government office), you should operate on the assumption that at least one of the numerous federal law enforcement agencies (such as the FBI, DEA, HHS, IRS, SEC, or Secret Service) has already conducted a thorough investigation. When a federal grand jury provides oversight to a federal investigation, they have broad powers and few limitations, meaning they tend to cast a wide net. As a potential target, you may have been under audio and/or video surveillance for months, even years, prior to being alerted to your status as a target. You should also assume that many records have also been subpoenaed and carefully reviewed, including bank, business, medical, or phone records. Not only should this underscore the serious nature of receiving a Target Letter, but it should also highlight the fact that you need to consult with an experienced Florida Target Letter defense lawyer right away.
The Target Letter you received may include a request to contact the Department of Justice or a law enforcement agency. It may also ask you to produce documents and provide a “deadline” for doing so. It may even ask you to testify in front of the Grand Jury. Having the DOJ identify you as a target of a criminal investigation can be frightening, and it may seem like a good idea to comply with any requests made in the Target Letter you received; however, it is crucial to understand that you are not being compelled to comply (at this time) and you should not comply without first consulting an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
Why You Need an Attorney When You Receive a Target Letter
Receiving a Target Letter does not mean that you have been charged with a federal crime – yet. It does, however, mean that federal law enforcement and/or prosecutors strongly suspect your involvement in a federal crime. Knowing how to respond, and what you should and should not do after receiving a Target Letter requires the assistance of an experienced Florida Target Letter defense attorney.
While you should not blindly comply with requests in a Target Letter, neither should you completely ignore those requests. Another thing you should not do is scramble to try and hide or destroy evidence that could link you to the crime being investigated. These common reactions to receiving a Target Letter increase the likelihood of your status as a “target” being upgraded to “defendant.”
Contacting a Florida Target Letter defense lawyer right away ensures several important things, including:
- Obtain vital information. Your attorney can contact the federal prosecutor handling the case and confirm your status as a target as well as request additional information and/or documents detailing the investigation. Only then can you discuss with your attorney the option to comply with requests made in the Target Letter. In some cases, doing so is in your best interest while in others you should absolutely not comply, and in still other situations your attorney may first negotiate a deal with the prosecutor to reduce your exposure to criminal charges resulting from the investigation.
- Protect your rights. Your attorney will step in and make sure your Constitutional rights are protected throughout the continued investigation and/or prosecution of the case. This includes things such as reviewing the requests made by the DOJ for documents and/or testimony to determine if voluntary compliance with those requests is in your best interests and if the government has the necessary legal basis to compel your compliance.
- Potentially avoid being charged with a crime. By bringing on an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible you increase the likelihood of avoiding an indictment. In many instances, providing records, witnesses, and testimony may prevent the filing of charges against you.
- Proffering. The term “proffer” is frequently used in federal investigations. It refers to the process of an individual or corporation voluntarily cooperating with an investigation. However, it is vital that an experienced federal defense attorney guides you through this process. An experienced federal defense attorney will be able to ensure that you are given a limited immunity by the federal prosecutor which prevents your statements from being used directly against you should you eventually be charged.
- Defend you if you are charged. If you are ultimately charged as a defendant in a federal criminal prosecution, having an experienced attorney on board since you received a Target Letter means that your attorney knows what the government’s investigation has uncovered and your attorney has already been preparing to defend you in and out of the courtroom.
Contact an Experienced Florida Target Letter Defense Lawyer
When your freedom and your future are potentially at stake, you need an experienced federal defense attorney on your side. If you received a Target Letter, do not hesitate to contact Florida Target Letter defense lawyer Jonathan Rose P.A today by calling 407-894-4555 or filling out our online contact form.