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What Happens After You Receive a Federal Target Letter? Key Decisions

What Happens After You Get a Target Letter From the Feds? Some Key Things to Keep in Mind

Getting a target letter from federal prosecutors can make anyone feel scared and overwhelmed. I should know – I’m a defense attorney who has represented many clients in this situation. But take a deep breath – this letter doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get charged or indicted. You still have options and defenses. Let me walk through what to do if you find a target letter in your mailbox.

What is a Target Letter Anyway?

A target letter simply means the U.S. Attorney’s Office sees you as a “target” of an investigation. This means prosecutors think you may have committed a crime or have useful information about someone else’s crime.The letter will usually name the specific crime they suspect you of. It’s meant to pressure you into talking to the investigators or pleading guilty.But just because you get a target letter doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get indicted or charged. The prosecutor still needs to convince a grand jury with actual evidence. So don’t panic yet.

Okay, I Got a Target Letter – Now What?

Here are some key things I recommend if you get one of these letters:

1. Don’t Freak Out

Easier said than done, I know! But take a few deep breaths. The letter sounds scary but doesn’t seal your fate. You still have options and defenses. An experienced attorney can help assess your case and figure out the best move forward.

2. Don’t Talk to the Investigators

After a target letter, investigators will probably try to get you to talk or hand over documents. Politely decline – don’t provide any interviews, statements, or anything else without a lawyer present. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

3. Hire a Good Lawyer, Stat

The most critical thing you can do is hire an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer right away. Don’t delay on this. Federal cases are super complex with high stakes. You need someone in your corner who knows all the rules and pitfalls.Make sure to find someone with specific experience in federal cases like yours. Understand their background and track record too. This is your advocate, so make sure you trust them.

4. Figure Out What You’re Up Against

With your lawyer’s help, assess what charges and penalties you realistically might face. This will help shape the defense strategy.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
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Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
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Taïko Beauty
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5. Consider Going on Offense

In some cases, it makes sense for your lawyer to engage with prosecutors proactively, before any charges are even filed. This can potentially persuade them to back off or at least soften their stance.

6. Weigh the Pros and Cons of Cooperating

Prosecutors may ask you to cooperate in their investigation in exchange for lesser charges. Cooperating can be risky but may also help reduce your exposure. Your lawyer can help analyze whether it makes sense for you.

What Legal Protections Do I Have?

Despite getting a target letter, you still have important rights, like:

  • Presumption of innocence – you’re innocent until proven guilty
  • Right to an attorney – you can have a lawyer represent you
  • Right against self-incrimination – you can take the 5th
  • Burden of proof on prosecutors – they must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt

So don’t let the target letter scare you too much. An experienced lawyer can ensure prosecutors play by the rules.

What Happens Next?

There are a few possible next steps after you get a target letter:

  • Hiring a lawyer to handle negotiations
  • Presenting information to prosecutors or grand jury
  • Waiving grand jury and letting charges get filed directly
  • Testifying before grand jury if subpoenaed
  • Proffer sessions with prosecutors through your lawyer
  • Plea bargain talks
  • Going to trial

An experienced lawyer will guide you through choosing the right path forward. It depends on the specifics of your situation.

How Can I Fight the Charges?

If you do get charged, you have options to battle the accusations, like:

  • Plea bargaining for lesser charges
  • Filing pretrial motions to get evidence thrown out or charges dismissed
  • Going to trial and forcing prosecutors to prove their case
  • Asserting affirmative defenses like self-defense or insanity
  • Presenting mitigating factors to reduce culpability

A good lawyer will pursue the strongest defense strategy for your unique case. Don’t give up hope yet.

What Could Happen After I Get a Target Letter?

Some possibilities after a target letter:

  • Not getting charged at all due to lack of evidence
  • Getting charged but having charges dismissed before trial
  • Plea bargaining to plead guilty to reduced charges
  • Going to trial and being found not guilty
  • Getting convicted at trial and facing sentencing

Outcomes run the gamut after a target letter. An experienced lawyer gives you the best shot at the most favorable resolution.The bottom line – try to stay calm if you get a target letter. Get an excellent lawyer on your side. Don’t talk to investigators without counsel. Take a deep breath – with the right legal help, you have a fighting chance, even if the letter makes you feel doomed. It ain’t over till it’s over.

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