If you have received a letter from a federal prosecutor stating that you have become the target of a grand jury investigation, this is known as a target letter. There is very important advice to follow if you receive a US Attorney target letter:
#1 Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Telling someone who has received a target letter to get a lawyer may be the most obvious advice. But don’t choose any attorney: You should choose an attorney who has years of experience handling federal grand jury investigations and cases, such as Attorney Geoffrey Nathan. Be sure to meet with several attorneys with federal crime defense experience, check with friends and reviews and see who can best provide you with a strong defense. Make certain you hire an attorney before you even think about responding to the target letter.
#2 Don’t Do What the Letter Asks
US Attorney target letters can vary in their content. But they nearly always tell you to do something. Some may request that you come to a meeting with the US Attorney handling the federal case. Some may ask you to testify in front of the grand jury voluntarily. Others request that you hire a lawyer and have him contact the federal prosecutor.
Regardless of what it asks from you, you always will be served best by hiring a criminal defense attorney and have him call the prosecutor.
It is our tendency to want to be helpful and explain ourselves, but this is probably the worst idea. It is unwise to call the federal prosecutor and try to tell him what happened. Everything you say on that call will be recorded and may be used against you later. Also, strongly consider whether you should speak to any federal law enforcement about the letter. This includes the federal prosecutor who wants to indict you. None of these people are your friends or have your interests at heart. You attorney is your best advocate - only trust him.
#3 Know Which Type of Target Letter It Is
In a federal criminal inquiry, people who receive target letters are in three groups: witness, subject and target. If you are a target, this means the federal investigation is focused on you. The federal prosecutor and federal agents believe you did something illegal and want to see if there is enough evidence to indict you.
Being a target varies a great deal from being a subject. In this case, the federal agents think that something illegal occurred and the subject could have information about it, but they most likely are not prosecuting that person.
The bottom line is, you do not want to be the target of a federal investigation. But if you are, a good defense attorney can do a lot for you.
#4 Understand What Is In the Target Letter
The letter will inform you of the crimes that have been alleged against you by the Department of Justice. You will be told that you should not destroy or try to alter any evidence that may be related to the alleged crimes. The letter also will tell you that you can refuse to answer questions that you would be asked if you testified in front of the grand jury if they would incriminate you.
The letter also has the date, time, court and court address for the grand jury hearing on your case. It will inform you that you have the right to an attorney. If you do not have the money for an attorney, you have a right to a public defender. While you do have the right to testify before the grand jury, the right for you to present evidence is very limited.
#5 The Letter Means They Have Information On You
If you are the subject of the target letter, the investigation is underway and they have evidence that you may have committed a federal crime. If the DOJ obtains a search warrant, it means they possess substantial information about some type of illegal activity that you may have committed. They have good information on who did what and why. It is time to call a federal criminal defense attorney.
What Happens After I Get a Target Letter?
The federal government may be locked in and considers you the most likely person who committed a federal crime. They may send you the target letter so you will negotiate a plea immediately so they do not have to spend the time and resources indicting you. The letter will provide your criminal defense attorney with some information, but it will not be as extensive as if federal charges are filed against you.
You and your attorney can discuss what information they have on you, how likely he thinks you could be convicted, and see what deal the federal government is offering. You may want to plead and make a deal, but not necessarily.
If the federal government is not prosecuting you, your attorney has more room to negotiate. He may meet with the federal prosecutor and the law enforcement agent to see what information they have. Then, your attorney can meet with you and make a presentation to provide to the federal prosecutor about why it is wrong to prosecute you.
In other situations, you may get lucky. Sometimes an aggressive prosecutor could get pulled and assigned to another case. Or the agent that wants to convict you retires. Sometimes pure luck can save you. But for the most part, the more time and resources the federal government put into the case, it is less likely you will walk away without being indicted.
Remember: You should never pick up the phone and talk to the federal prosecutor who sent you the target letter. This move will likely be disastrous for your case. Your first and only smart move is to call an experienced federal crime defense attorney.
Now that you know what a US Attorney target letter is, your next step should be talk to a federal defense attorney, such as Attorney Geoffrey Nathan. He can analyze the case the feds have on you and determine the best legal steps. Contact him now for a complimentary consultation at (617) 472-5775.