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Strategies for Responding to Target Letters From the FBI Public Corruption Unit

Strategies for Responding to Target Letters From the FBI Public Corruption Unit

Getting a target letter from the FBI can be scary. It means you’re being investigated for public corruption crimes like bribery, extortion, or kickbacks[1]. But don’t panic. There are strategies you can use to respond appropriately and protect your rights.

What is a Target Letter?

A target letter is how the government informs you that you’re a target for criminal prosecution[5]. Basically, the prosecutor thinks you committed a crime. Target letters often come after the FBI tried interviewing you, but they can also come out of nowhere[5].

These letters follow a standard format from the FBI, DOJ, or other agencies. They identify you as a target, not just a witness or subject[5]. Being named a target means there is substantial evidence of your guilt[6]. But it does not guarantee you’ll be indicted.

Don’t Panic

Getting a target letter is scary. But don’t panic or do anything rash. Contact an experienced federal defense lawyer immediately. They can help protect your rights and guide you through the process. Here are some key tips:

  • Don’t talk to investigators without your lawyer present. Assert your right to have counsel.
  • Don’t destroy evidence or obstruct justice. That can lead to additional charges.
  • Begin gathering documents and evidence to aid your defense.
  • Have your lawyer negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf.

Understand the Investigation

The FBI investigates many federal crimes like bribery, kickbacks, extortion, and other public corruption[1][2]. Their authority is broad[4]. So first understand what allegations you’re facing. This can help shape your defense strategy.

Your lawyer can file a motion to compel discovery and get more details from the prosecution. This can reveal the scope of evidence against you. It also gives insights into the FBI’s tactics and direction of the investigation.

Assert Your Rights

The 5th Amendment gives you the right not to incriminate yourself. Use it. Politely decline to speak to investigators or testify to a grand jury without your lawyer. Even if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong, don’t talk.

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The FBI may try interviewing you even after you lawyered up. But nothing requires you to talk. Be polite but firm you won’t discuss the investigation without your attorney.

Avoid Obstruction

Don’t destroy evidence or lie to investigators once you know about the probe. That can lead to obstruction charges, even if you’re innocent of the underlying crime[6]. Be careful about what you say and do after receiving the target letter.

Your home, office and electronics may also be searched. Get legal advice before cleaning up anything that could be relevant. Don’t delete emails, shred documents or reformat drives as that can be construed as obstruction.

Get Your Records in Order

Target letters often advise you to gather relevant records. Do so immediately, as you may need these documents to refresh your memory or corroborate your statements.

Financial and phone records can help establish timelines and relationships. Emails and files on your devices may also be relevant. But consult your lawyer before sifting through evidence.

Negotiate with Prosecutors

In some cases, it may be possible for your attorney to negotiate with prosecutors and minimize charges. This depends on the strength of evidence and nature of allegations.

But if you have information to trade, your lawyer may be able to get you a cooperation agreement in exchange for testifying against others. Or they may negotiate a plea deal that reduces your sentence exposure.

Explore Possible Defenses

There are various defenses that could apply in your case. For bribery and kickback schemes, you may argue you lacked criminal intent or the payments were legitimate.

Entrapment is another defense if you can show the government induced you to commit crimes you otherwise wouldn’t. Duress or coercion claims may also negate intent.

Your lawyer can review the evidence and advise you on the best defense strategies to pursue.

Make an Effective Presentation to the Grand Jury

If your case goes to a grand jury, your lawyer may recommend testifying to give your side. It’s risky but can possibly influence their decision on an indictment.

Prepare extensively with your attorney to ensure you give a compelling, truthful account. Don’t try to mislead grand jurors or obstruct justice.

Consider Trial Strategies

While hoping for dismissal, your lawyer should also develop potential trial strategies in case of an indictment. They will analyze the prosecution’s witnesses, physical evidence, and any gaps in the case.

You and your lawyer should brainstorm questions to challenge credibility of witnesses or authenticity of evidence. Jury selection and jury instructions can also be tailored to your defense.

Explore Alternatives to Trial

Your lawyer may advise resolving your case through a plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement rather than trial. This involves weighing many factors.

But alternatives can potentially avoid harsh maximum sentences if convicted at trial. Your lawyer can help negotiate the best possible outcome.

Don’t Lose Hope

Getting a target letter is frightening. But stay positive – the case against you may have weaknesses. An experienced lawyer can negotiate dismissal or acquittal. Or possibly a favorable plea bargain.

With the right legal strategy, even targets can end up with minor charges or no charges at all. So don’t lose hope until all options are exhausted.


Target letters mark the start of a complex legal process. Don’t go it alone. Hire an experienced federal defense lawyer to protect your rights. Follow their guidance at every phase. Assert your rights, avoid obstruction, and explore possible defenses. With the right approach, even targets can achieve successful case outcomes.


[1] Responding to Target Letters From the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit

[2] Responding to Target Letters From the FBI Public Corruption Unit

[3] DOJ, U.S. Attorney, or FBI Target Letter? Federal Lawyer

[4] FBI Subpoena Tips & Defense Strategies

[5] Target Letters From Federal Law Enforcement

[6] Target Letters from a Federal Government Investigation

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