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Receiving a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena After a Target Letter

Receiving a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena After a Target Letter

Getting a target letter from the feds is scary stuff. This letter means you’re being investigated for a federal crime. It’s like a warning shot saying, “We’re coming after you.” Not cool. Even worse is when a target letter is followed up with a grand jury subpoena. Now they want you to testify before the grand jury as part of their investigation. Yikes!

But don’t freak out just yet. Getting subpoenaed isn’t an automatic trip to jail. There are things you can do to protect yourself. This article will break it all down so you understand what’s happening and how to handle it.

What is a target letter?

A target letter is sent by federal prosecutors to let you know you’re a suspect in a criminal investigation[3]. It means they think you may have committed a federal crime. The letter will identify the specific law they believe you violated.

Target letters are often sent to people before they are formally charged. The goal is to get them to cooperate with the investigation. The letter will usually say something like, “We strongly encourage you to meet with us so we can discuss this matter.” Don’t fall for it! This is not an invitation to clear things up. It’s a ploy to get evidence against you.[4]

If you get a target letter, it means the prosecutors have already gathered some evidence against you. But they want more – like a confession or testimony against others. The target letter is a sign you need an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer, stat.

What happens after a target letter?

After a target letter, the next shoe to drop is often a grand jury subpoena. This demands that you testify before a federal grand jury about the investigation. As a target, you have to show up – but you don’t have to say anything.[5]

Ignoring a grand jury subpoena is not smart. That’s contempt of court, which can land you in jail on its own. Get a lawyer to file a motion to quash the subpoena, or negotiate limited immunity for your testimony. Those are safer options than just blowing it off.

Christine Twomey
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Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
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Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
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I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
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If you do end up testifying, listen to your lawyer and don’t answer anything that could incriminate you. Take the Fifth Amendment and politely decline to answer those questions. Don’t try to argue or talk your way out of it. That can backfire fast.

After the grand jury appearance, prosecutors may or may not move forward with an indictment. Sometimes they realize they don’t have enough evidence and drop the case. Other times, your testimony gives them what they need to charge you. It’s a waiting game at this point.

Can you fight or dismiss a target letter?

Unfortunately, there is no way to directly challenge or dismiss a target letter. Since it’s not filed with the court, a federal judge has no power over it[3]. There’s no such thing as a “Motion to Dismiss Target Letter.”

The best bet is to have your lawyer contact the prosecutor’s office. See if they’ll rescind the letter or at least clarify what evidence they have. Sometimes target letters go out when an investigation is just starting, before the government has done much digging. Your lawyer may be able to convince them you’re small potatoes.

If that doesn’t work, brace yourself for a long ride. Federal investigations often drag on for years before any charges are filed[3]. As frustrating as this limbo is, use the time to build your defense strategy with your attorney.

What are your options after getting a target letter?

Here are some steps to take after receiving a target letter:

  • Don’t panic – the letter alone doesn’t mean you’ll be charged or convicted.
  • Don’t meet with investigators without your lawyer present – nothing good comes from that.
  • Hire an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately.
  • Have your lawyer reach out to the prosecutor’s office for more information.
  • If you’re subpoenaed for grand jury testimony, prepare with your attorney so you don’t accidentally incriminate yourself.
  • Begin gathering documents and evidence to rebut the prosecutor’s allegations.
  • Make sure your finances are in order in case you need to pay legal fees or post bond if charged.

The most important thing is not to panic or do anything rash. Get professional legal help to protect your rights and guide you through the process. Don’t be a sitting duck waiting to get indicted – be proactive with an aggressive defense.

What should you do when subpoenaed to testify?

A grand jury subpoena after a target letter means prosecutors want your testimony as part of their investigation. Here are some pointers if you have to appear:

  • Consult your lawyer about the possibility of filing a motion to quash the subpoena.
  • Discuss the option of limited immunity with your attorney.
  • Review the details of the investigation so you know which questions could be incriminating.
  • Meet with your lawyer right before testifying to go over strategy.
  • Invoke your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination for any dangerous questions.
  • Stick to simple yes/no answers whenever possible.
  • Don’t try to argue your innocence – that can backfire.
  • Remain calm and polite – no outbursts or disrespect.

The key is to get help from an experienced grand jury lawyer. They can advise you on the smartest approach so you don’t make a misstep. Careful preparation and firm boundaries are crucial.

What happens if you ignore a grand jury subpoena?

You do not want to just blow off a grand jury subpoena. That’s considered contempt of court, which is a federal crime in itself. The judge can hit you with fines or even jail time just for ignoring the subpoena[5].

Some people think it’s safer not to testify than risk self-incrimination. But contempt is no joke, so don’t go that route. File a motion to quash the subpoena or work out a deal for limited immunity instead. Those options let you avoid testifying safely, without breaking the law.


  • A target letter means federal prosecutors believe you committed a crime they’re investigating.
  • Don’t try to challenge a target letter in court – there’s no legal process for that.
  • Getting a lawyer to contact prosecutors is the best response to a target letter.
  • If you’re subpoenaed after a target letter, carefully prepare your grand jury testimony.
  • Pleading the Fifth Amendment is your right if asked incriminating questions.
  • Ignoring a subpoena can lead to an contempt of court charge – get it quashed instead.
  • Stay calm and be proactive building your defense after receiving a target letter.

Dealing with a federal investigation is scary, but having an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney on your side makes all the difference. Don’t go it alone against the full force of the government. Get skilled legal help fighting for your freedom.

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