01 Nov 21

What To Do First If You Receive A Target Letter

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Last Updated on: 25th August 2023, 11:05 pm

What Is a Federal Target Letter?

The federal government sends target letters when it is investigating a federal crime. Recipients of target letters have information that the federal government needs to investigate the case. The target letter may also request that the recipient perform an action. For example, you may receive a target letter requesting your presence in a meeting with the Assistant U.S. District Attorney.

Target Letter Contents

Target letters contain valuable information that you need to know before you can move forward. This includes the following:

  • The crime that the government is investigating.
  • The federal statutes that you are accused of violating.
  • The right to assert your constitutional rights.
  • Any important deadlines.

If you receive a target letter, the federal government believes that it has evidence that you committed a federal crime. Therefore, the federal government is likely to charge you in a criminal court.

What to Do First…

If you received a target letter, you must promptly respond to this letter. Failure to do so could result in serious penalties, but you must not do this alone. Therefore, the first thing that you need to do is hire a criminal defense attorney. If a federal agent contacts you, you must not answer this person’s questions without your attorney. However, if a federal agent asks you any questions before you have a lawyer, you must not lie or deny anything. Lying or denying the charges could open you up to an obstruction of justice charge. Let the agent know that you will communicate with him or her as soon as you hire an attorney.

If you haven’t received a target letter at this point, the federal government will send you one after you refuse to cooperate in the investigation. Then, the federal government may ask you to submit to an interview. They may ask you to appear before the grand jury. You must not do either of these things unless you have an attorney. Your attorney will explain the process to you in detail and communicate with the federal government from now on. Then, your attorney will begin to prepare your defense.

Who May Send a Target Letter?

The Department of Justice sends target letters. Specifically, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices are in charge of sending target letters. You may also receive a target letter from an agency that is assisting the DOJ in the investigation. These agencies include the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC, the Department of Homeland Security or DHS, the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB and the Internal Revenue Service or IRS.

Target, Witness or Subject…

You will not necessarily know whether you are a target of an investigation, a witness or a subject. Because you may be unsure of this one point, it is highly important that you hire a defense attorney. You may only be a witness in the investigation, but you still need to have a lawyer.

If the federal government has substantial evidence that links you to a crime, you will be a “target” of the investigation. If this is the case, it is very likely that you may be indicted, so it is of the utmost importance that you hire an attorney. You may also be a “subject” of the investigation. The subject of an investigation is connected in some way to the crime. It’s possible that the government could charge you with wrongdoing. A “witness” has information that the government needs to prove that a crime occurred. It may be your testimony or physical evidence. It’s possible that the evidence in your possession could incriminate you. Therefore, even if you are only a witness, you will still need to retain an attorney to protect your Fifth Amendment rights.

If You Are in Possession of Evidence…

If you are a subject or a target of the investigation, the federal government may send you a target letter that mentions this evidence. If you have this evidence, you must not destroy it for the purpose of weakening the government’s case. Destroying evidence can lead to a charge of “obstruction of justice,” and the government attorney will charge you with this crime. Rather than destroy any evidence you have, gather all the evidence you can that can help your attorney develop a strong defense for you.

Pay Close Attention to the Dates in Your Target Letter…

Your letter may have deadlines by which you will need to present documentation. It may also give you the dates that you need to present yourself in front of the grand jury. You would receive a subpoena from the grand Jury that lists the documents you must take on the day you will need to testify. The subpoena also tells you where you need to go, the date you need to be there and the time.

Samples of Federal Target Letters from U.S. Attorney’s Offices

Should you find out that you are the subject of a federal investigation, you will customarily be notified at some point by way of a target letter.  The letter will tell you which area of the law the offense pertains to, and it will likely request your cooperation with the investigation. Be advised that by the time you get a target letter, you will probably already know or at least have some suspicion that you are under investigation. Federal agents might have already questioned you or loved ones by that time, or perhaps even presented a search warrant at your door. Depending on the details of the offense you allegedly committed, you could be under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), or any of a multitude of other federal agencies. 

No matter what the specifics of your crime, it is important that you move fast to get in touch with a skilled federal defense lawyer who can represent you and stand up for  your rights throughout every phase of your case.

If you have received a target letter or are under investigation, contact an experienced, licensed federal defense attorney as soon as possible to get advice about how to deal with the investigation and respond to the target letter.

Receiving a Federal Target Letter from a U.S. Attorney

When you receive a target letter, it is an indicator that you are under investigation and are in immediate need of a highly skilled defense lawyer. You should consider yourself at risk of imminent arrest.  Rather than scrambling to source adequate representation in reaction to an inconvenient circumstance, proactively connect with a lawyer who can defend you starting right now.

The target letter will be addressed to you from the U.S. attorney in the district where your case is being handled. The letter will probably tell you what agency is investigating you, and also inform you of what the charges are connected to. The letter will also likely offer you an opportunity to resolve the matter before you are indicted and arrested. You must never assume that this means you can efficiently resolve your case by working with the very entity that is trying to convict you. You should definitely consult with an attorney for this.  Make sure to have your lawyer present anytime you are meeting with federal agents or the U.S. attorney.

The target letter may also lay out certain rights that you have, for example:

  • The right to remain silent;
  • The right against self-incrimination;
  • The right to an attorney.

It is very important indeed to exercise these rights to your advantage, and to quickly select an attorney who can guide your next steps. 

A Sample of a Federal Target Letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office

There are a variety of different target letters available on the United States Attorney website.  These include letters for cases involving document subpoenas and grand juries. target letters can also be used to request a meeting, or to request a lawyer call. 

Here below is sample of the possible text of a target letter:

U.S. Attorney’s Office Header

Dear {Subject of Investigation}:

{FBI/DEA/IRS/Other Agency} is investigating you in connection with {offense}.

We are preparing to present evidence to a grand jury and seek indictment and an arrest. If you would like to resolve this matter before a possible warrant is issued, please contact before {date}. Please have an attorney represent you at this meeting.

If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for a court-appointed lawyer. Please complete the attached form and present it to the Office of the Federal Public Defender.


U.S. Attorney

Speed and Skill

Two things are critical in the handling of a federal investigation: speed and skill. You must act fast to secure representation and to leap into action before the U.S. attorney has time to build a convincing case against you. You should get yourself a lawyer who has what it takes to win, regardless of whether he or she is up against the unlimited resources of the federal government.

What To Do First If You Get A Target Letter

Have you ever received a target letter? If you have never received, it is most likely you do not understand what it is. A target letter is a written document sent by the United States attorney to an individual stating that they are a target of a federal criminal investigation. It is a letter that asks you to co-operate by providing the assistance needed to complete the investigations. In the letter will be information on what federal crimes you are facing and what they would like you to do as a measure of cooperation. Before a target letter is sent to you, the chances are that an agent from an investigating body will have contacted you.

If you received a target letter

If you received a target letter from a federal prosecutor saying that you are a subject of an investigation by a grand jury, there are some steps that you need to take immediately. These are steps that will ensure that you are in a position to respond adequately to the demands of the prosecutor.

Hire a lawyer

It is common that whenever you find yourself under investigation or facing charges, you will need to hire the services of a lawyer. However, it is possible that if you are reading this article, you are already in the process of hiring a lawyer. Maybe you are asking yourself how you will find a lawyer who will help you to deal with the charges facing you. If you know how to hire a good lawyer, then you’ll be on your way to responding appropriately to the target letter.

The process of hiring a lawyer should be based on the crimes you are being investigated for. If you are facing a federal criminal investigation, you’ll need to have the services of a federal criminal defense lawyer who is adequately furnished with knowledge on how to deal with such issues. If it is bank fraud, you need the services of a lawyer who has experience in that field. It’s also important to take into consideration that there are thousands of statute under the U.S Justice System and they are applied differently depending on the jurisdiction. So, it is important to hire a lawyer who is familiar with the statute of your area.

Do you respond to the target letter?

Whenever you receive a target letter, there is without a doubt something that the prosecutor won’t you to do. The letter might be asking you to present yourself for a meeting with the team investigating the matter you are associated with. Others will ask you to present yourself before a grand jury to give a testimony. Some target letters will ask you to hire the services of a lawyer who will then contact the prosecutor. Regardless of the request contained in the target letter, the prudent decision to make is to hire a lawyer who will, in turn, contact the prosecutor on your behalf. Do not attempt it call the prosecutor by yourself since you might not understand the legal implication of your actions. The prosecutor can use such an opportunity to corner you into a position that will negatively affect your defense.

A target

In any case of a federal criminal investigation, the people involved are classified into three categories namely subject, witness and target. If you are identified as a target, it means that the investigators are looking into your conduct. The investigating agency considers you as the person responsible for the crime committed. If you are a subject, it means that the federal agents have identified you with the crime committed, but they need you to provide information that they believe you might possess, but that does not necessarily mean that you are to be prosecuted. Clearly, you do not want to be a target since you are likely to be the one facing charges in a court of law.

What will happen?

When the government sends you a target letter, it might be asking you to join them at the negotiating table so that you can take a plea and avoid a situation where you will be formally indicted. In this case, the prosecutor will provide some information but not as much as what would happen in a court of law. At this stage, you and your lawyer should consider the information that the government has and what is likely to happen if the case goes to trial. In case you take the plea, chances are that the government will not press charges in court.

If the government has no intentions of prosecuting you, your lawyers will liaise with the prosecutor and later with you with the aim of making a presentation and why the prosecution should not initiate charges against you. It is the role of the lawyer to cushion the client from the prosecution at the earliest possible stage. It is therefore important to get a qualified lawyer who understands these issues.

The fact that you have received a target letter does not mean that you’ll ever be prosecuted. You can receive it yet nothing will ever happen to you. Maybe the prosecutor was reassigned to another case or retired.

What To Do First If You Get A Target Letter?

Federal criminal investigations are often large in scope, are intricate, and potentially involve numerous individuals. Federal criminal charges are serious accusations. Therefore, the government usually exercises significant caution when determining which individuals to formally accuse.

Under specific circumstances, subjects who said bureaucracy might believe had some involvement in varying federal criminal offenses might be sent a document called a target letter.

The Spodek Law Group

The Spodek Law Group, a team of skilled federal criminal defense lawyers serving New Jersey residents, requests their followers read this piece offering explanation regarding what a target letter is, in addition to the most appropriate actions those receiving said correspondences should take.



Federal government officials draft target letters to inform intended recipients that they might soon be subject to federal criminal prosecution.
These documents are authored following an investigation. Said undertakings often yield enough evidence to suggest that letter recipients engaged in some type of wrongdoing. Typically, however, target letters are issued to those suspected of engaging in one or more forms of white-collar offenses.

Information Contained Within

Said correspondences usually contain several key facets of information including the specific act the accused is believed to have committed, information on how to obtain legal representation should they not be able to afford said benefit, the alleged individual’s involvement in a grand jury investigations, and said subject’s right to remain silent.
Furthermore, the document might warn the recipient not take any potentially detrimental actions that might hinder or interfere with the ongoing investigation and may even invite said party to further discuss the issue with prosecutors.

Are Target Letters Merely A Prelude To Criminal Charges?

The short answer to this question is not necessarily. Occasionally, prosecutors cannot find enough credible evidence to proceed with charges or formal indictments.

Steps Recipients Are Encouraged To Take

Do Not Act Impulsively

Granted, receiving such a correspondence is stressful. That said, the individual in question should not make any rash decisions. They should, however, refrain from engaging in any actions federal authorities caution them not to partake in.

Consult With An Experienced Attorney

Again, it is crucial to reiterate that federal criminal charges are often complex. Therefore, target letter recipients are strongly encouraged to consult with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Said legal professionals can consult with prosecutors on the client’s behalf and learn important information such as if the government intends to press charges, discover any particulars about the investigation prosecutors are at liberty to disclose, and agree upon possible ways the underlying issue can be resolved.

Effective federal criminal lawyers might be able to convince prosecutors to dismiss associated charges. In other events, said professionals might persuade prosecuting entities to consider potential targets as witnesses.

For the proper dispensation like immunity or a reduced sentence, a targeted subject could provide valuable information about a specific offense or possesses credible evidence about those masterminding such acts.

The Benefits Of Sending Target Letters

Target letters are far less formal than other means of pursuing prospective subjects of criminal investigations. Legal instruments like subpoenas, the dispatching of federal agents to conduct target interviews, and search warrant executions cannot be undertaken without a judge’s authorization.

Many legal scholars maintain that target letters are submitted to individuals prosecutors believe might be able to help them and encourage intended recipients to cooperate.

Potential Defensive Strategies

Most federal criminal defense attorneys maintain that a target letter recipient should never subscribe to a wait and see approach. Rather, said individual and their legal representation should promptly and actively respond to such inquiry.

The government might invite cooperation and be willing to hear what the recipient has to say but will not wait forever. Their duty is to stop a given crime and bring its alleged perpetrators to justice.

Quick intervention is needed to yield the target letter grantee potentially favorable outcomes such as:

Not Being Arrested

Once a client of a reputable criminal defense attorney, government officials are less likely to be formally arrested.

Avoiding Charges

Skilled defense attorneys might discover credible evidence that might help exonerate their client and help them avoid formal charges.

Contacting Us

Individuals who have received target letters are firmly urged to contact the legal professionals at the Spodek Law Firm. We have extensive experience handling such cases, can review a client’s specific circumstances, and formulate the best possible response strategy.

Understanding Federal Target Letters

One of the most important documents you’ll encounter is a target letter. This is a formal correspondence by the DOJ or a federal prosecutor, that indicates you’re the target of a federal criminal investigation.

  • There are three parts to the target letter, the nature of the investigation, the statement of your rights, and an invitation to testify before the grand jury

Target letters outline the nature of the crime you’re suspected of committing, your rights, and the right to legal representation. Often, there’s an invitation to testify before a grand jury or speak to a prosecutor. This is a series matter. It is not an indictment, or a guarantee of one. It’s a clear signal though – that you are involved in a criminal investigation. There is a need for immediate action.

Types of Federal Target Letters

There are two primary types of target letters you might receive. Each has different implications, and comes from different federal entities. The first is a target letter from a federal prosecutor, typically the DOJ. This means you are the target of a federal criminal investigation. It means there’s evidence linking you to a crime, and the prosecutor believes they can indict you based on evidence. The letter will outline the nature of the crime, and your rights, including the right to legal defense. You might be invited to testify before a grand jury as well.

The second type of target letter is issued by the grand jury. This is similar to the former letter we discussed. It’s job is to notify you that you’re the target of an investigation. It’s important to note that the grand jury has already been convened, and is actively investigating the crime.

Both types of target letters are serious and require immediate attention