Receiving a letter from the United States Attorney’s Office can certainly be alarming. If you have received one of these letters, known as a Target of Investigation (TOI) letter, then it is important you waste no time in contacting an attorney. This letter means you are in the pre-indictment stage of a federal case. The reason that you have received this letter is, simply, that you are under investigation for a serious federal offense, and that they are notifying you of this. It is best that, when initially in receipt of the letter, that you do not contact the prosecutor for an interview, for at this stage, anything said, as we all know, can and will be used against you.
In this article, we will address what a target letter is, what you should do, and what the implications of one of these letters can be. We hope that, by the end of this page, you will be in a better position than you were when you initially started reading this article, and that you will feel confident that you can deal with the situation more appropriately, and according to the situation at hand.
Here’s what you should do if you receive a target letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
What is a Federal Target Letter?
These letters, which we have already explained are the target of investigation letters, are formal notices that the federal government has targeted you for investigation in criminal prosecution. When you receive a federal target letter, you can then be summoned to court, where you may be asked to testify before a grand jury about a criminal activity you are believed to have had knowledge of, or have, worse, participated in. These letters are often used in cases such as fraud, embezzlement, bribery, or securities fraud. The letter is the first indication that you are under investigation, but not the last.
Target or Subject
It is important that you know whether you are a subject or a target. We have explained what target means previously; the subject of an investigation is a person whom the federal government and grand jury believe to have information that could contribute to the investigation and lead to a successful prosecution. A subject is a person who is of interest to the grand jury, and their conduct could be related to a crime. Your letter should clarify whether you are the target or a subject.
Is a Target Letter a Guarantee of Indictment?
In federal investigations, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will send target letters to parties who they consider to be the target of grand jury investigations. By virtue of receiving this letter, you are the target or one of many targets. A target is a person, considered by the U.S. Attorney, to have knowledge of, participation in, or evidence, linking them to the commission of a crime.
The government will make it perfectly clear if you are a target. If you have been identified as the target of a federal investigation, there is a very strong chance that you will be indicted, although with that said, there is hope that you may beat the case. Prosecutors are known for not gathering enough evidence to indict the targets of their investigations. An experienced attorney will explain this to you and will help you to understand that, while likely, an indictment is not guaranteed.
Your attorney should hopefully be able to deal with this appropriately and should be able to negotiate with prosecutors to close an investigation, argue to reclassify a target as a subject or witness, limit what investigators can do, and respond, rather than you, to the government inquiries. This is why it is important that you contact an attorney, as otherwise, you may not know what to do, which could hinder your defense. This is why we whole-heartedly suggest you contact an attorney at the first instance of you receiving a target letter, which is what we will now move onto.
Contacting an Attorney
A criminal defense attorney should be your first point of call after being in receipt of one of these letters. Criminal defense attorneys, if they are skilled enough, can even convince a prosecutor to drop the investigation under the grounds of there being insufficient evidence. With that said, if more evidence arises in the future, the investigation can and will be reinstated.
If an indictment is inevitable, your attorney should be able to access and evaluate the evidence that is mounted against you; they should be able to negotiate for a plea deal pre-indictment; they should also be able to receive early discovery, which can be very beneficial to fighting your case. If an indictment is inevitable, it is best you have your attorney argue for a pre-indictment plea; this can significantly reduce your sentence, and if prison is promised without a plea, potentially have you avoid jail and serve your sentence in the community.
Information Contained Within a TOI Letter
The letter, when received, will tell you exactly what crimes you are purported to have committed, and the crimes that you are being investigated for. The letter will instruct you not to destroy, alter, or hide any evidence that could contribute to your prosecution, or cover up any acts or behavior that could be considered, by the prosecutor, obstruction of justice; going against any of these can get you in a lot of trouble. The letter will also tell you that you have the right to refuse to answer under the Fifth Amendment, but by doing that, you can actually incriminate yourself – your attorney will advise you on that, however.
These letters will usually demand you take some kind of action immediately, such as meeting the attorney investigating you, testify before the grand jury voluntarily, or obtain an attorney. Whatever is requested of you, it is in your best interests to acquire an attorney as quickly as you can to limit the damage.
With this page, you now hopefully know what to do when you receive a target letter from the U.S. Attorney. These letters often portend indictment, though if you have a good attorney, you can fight against it, and potentially prevent it. Good luck!