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What are Federal Target Letters?

What are Federal Target Letters?

Receiving a federal target letter can be a daunting experience. This article aims to provide you with actionable advice on dealing with such letters. We will cover various aspects, including what a federal target letter is, why you might receive one, and what steps you should take if you do. Let’s dive in.

Understanding Federal Target Letters

A federal target letter is a formal notification from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or a federal prosecutor indicating that you are the target of a criminal investigation. This letter is not an indictment but a clear signal that you are significantly involved in a criminal investigation. It typically includes three main parts: the nature of the investigation, a statement of your rights, and an invitation to testify before a grand jury.

Key Points:

  • Nature of Investigation: Details the crime you are suspected of.
  • Statement of Rights: Outlines your legal rights, including the right to legal representation.
  • Invitation to Testify: Often includes an invitation to testify before a grand jury.

Receiving a target letter means that the federal government has substantial evidence linking you to a crime. It is crucial to take this letter seriously and seek legal counsel immediately.

Why You Might Receive a Federal Target Letter

Federal target letters are issued for various reasons. They are often used in white-collar crime investigations, such as fraud, embezzlement, and insider trading. The letter serves multiple purposes, including notifying you of the investigation, prompting you to cooperate, and providing you with an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Common Reasons:

  • Notification: Inform you that you are under investigation.
  • Cooperation: Encourage you to cooperate with the investigation.
  • Response Opportunity: Allow you to present your side of the story.

Federal prosecutors use target letters as a strategic tool to gather more evidence and potentially negotiate plea deals. It is essential to understand the implications of receiving such a letter and to act accordingly.

What to Do If You Receive a Federal Target Letter

Receiving a federal target letter can be alarming, but it is crucial not to panic. The first step is to retain legal counsel immediately. An experienced attorney can help you understand the implications of the letter, prepare you for any potential grand jury testimony, and protect your constitutional rights throughout the process.

Immediate Steps:

  • Hire an Attorney: Seek legal counsel immediately.
  • Do Not Speak to Investigators: Avoid speaking to federal investigators without your attorney present.
  • Preserve Evidence: Do not destroy any evidence related to the investigation.

Your attorney will guide you through the process, help you understand your rights, and develop a strategy to respond to the letter effectively.

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Types of Federal Target Letters

There are two primary types of federal target letters: those issued by a federal prosecutor and those issued directly by a grand jury. Each type has distinct implications and requires different responses.


  • Prosecutor’s Letter: Indicates substantial evidence linking you to a crime.
  • Grand Jury Letter: Issued when a grand jury is actively investigating the alleged crime.

Regardless of the type, both letters are serious notifications that require immediate attention and appropriate action.

Potential Consequences and Strategies

Receiving a federal target letter can lead to various legal consequences. At one end, charges could be filed against you, while at the other end, the investigation could be closed without any charges. Your response to the letter can significantly impact the outcome.

Potential Consequences:

  • Indictment: Formal charges may be filed against you.
  • Negotiation: Opportunity to negotiate a plea deal.
  • No Charges: Investigation may be closed without charges.


  • Cooperation: Consider cooperating with the investigation if it benefits your case.
  • Legal Defense: Develop a strong legal defense with your attorney.
  • Negotiation: Explore the possibility of negotiating a plea deal.

Your attorney will help you navigate these potential outcomes and develop a strategy that best protects your interests.

Dos and Don’ts After Receiving the Letter

The period immediately following the receipt of a target letter is critical. There are specific actions you should take and others you should avoid to protect your legal position.


  • Consult Your Attorney: Always consult your attorney before taking any action.
  • Preserve Evidence: Keep all relevant documents and communication.
  • Follow Legal Advice: Adhere to your attorney’s advice on responding to the letter.


  • Destroy Evidence: Do not destroy any evidence, as it can lead to additional charges.
  • Speak to Investigators Alone: Avoid speaking to federal investigators without your attorney present.
  • Discuss the Case: Refrain from discussing the case with anyone other than your attorney.

Following these guidelines helps ensure that your rights are protected and that you do not unintentionally harm your legal position.

Hypothetical Scenarios

Understanding potential scenarios can help you better prepare for what might happen after receiving a target letter. Here are some hypothetical situations and how you might handle them.

Scenario 1: Cooperation Offer

You receive a target letter offering you the chance to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for leniency. In this case, consult your attorney to evaluate the benefits and risks of cooperation.

Scenario 2: Grand Jury Testimony

The letter invites you to testify before a grand jury. Your attorney can help you prepare for the types of questions you might face and advise you on how to assert your Fifth Amendment rights if necessary.

Scenario 3: Plea Negotiation

The letter suggests the possibility of negotiating a plea deal. Your attorney can negotiate on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome.

Scenario 4: No Immediate Action

The letter does not require immediate action but informs you of the investigation. Your attorney can monitor the situation and advise you on any developments.

Scenario 5: Evidence Preservation

The letter cautions against destroying evidence. Ensure that you preserve all relevant documents and communication to avoid additional charges.

Scenario 6: Legal Representation

The letter advises you to obtain legal representation. Hiring an experienced attorney is crucial to navigating the investigation and protecting your rights.

Moving Forward

Receiving a federal target letter is a serious matter that requires immediate attention and appropriate action. By understanding what a target letter is, why you might receive one, and what steps to take, you can better navigate this challenging situation. Always consult with an experienced attorney to protect your rights and develop a strategy that best serves your interests. For more information and legal assistance, visit Spodek Law Group. We are available 24/7; call us today at 212-210-1851 or schedule your free, confidential consultation online.

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