FEDERAL CRIMINAL DEFENSE - TARGET LETTERS
A target Letter is a letter From Federal Prosecutors Informing an Individual that he or she is under investigation for federal crimes.
Often, the goal of the target letter is to obtain cooperation from the individual before an indictment is obtained.
A target letter is normally mailed or delivered by a federal special agent (FBI, ICE, DHS, IRS, etc.) informing the iindividual that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the federal law enforcement agency involved are investigating the individual for federal crimes. The letter also invites the individual to speak with the prosecutor.
Here is a sample target. letter.
What should I do if I receive a Target Letter from the U.S. Attorney's Office?
If you receive a target letter, it is important that you obtain a federal criminal defense lawyer and respond to the letter within the time permitted. Most target letters give a date by which the individual must respond.
If you cannot afford to hire a federal criminal defense lawyer, the court may appoint one for you because you received the target letter. You should call the Federal Defender’s Office for the district and ask for assistance.
What outcome should I expect if I receive a Target Letter from the U.S. Attorney's Office?
If you receive a target letter and do not respond, it is likely that you will be indicted and later arrested to appear in court.
If you receive a target letter choose to meet with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, you should have a federal criminal defense lawyer with you. At these meetings, the federal prosecutor and investigator normally give the individual details about the crimes being investigated and ask the individual if they would like to provide information in the form of a proffer. A proffer occurs where the individual provides information to the prosecutor and investigator but it cannot be used against the individual later if the individual proceeds to trial. Proffers are complicated and there normally is a letter associated with it that governs the terms and how the information provided can be used. It is wise to discuss exactly how the information provide will be used and under what circumstances it could be used against the individual, such as if the individual testifies later differently.
More often than not, the individual proffers with the prosecutor and investigator and becomes a cooperating witness. against others involved the criminal acts In exchange for cooperating, the individual normally can expect some benefit. In the federal context, this could be that the individual will not be charged; that individual will be charged with less serious offenses; or that the individual will receive a less severe sentence (often called a downward departure for “substantial assistance”).
If you receive a Target Letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, you should not tell anyone, especially those who may also be involved in the same crimes. This can endanger your safety and also compromise your ability to serve as a cooperating witness.
How is a Target Letter any different than the special agent interviewing me?
A Target Letter means the federal prosecutor is involved and desires to either have you cooperate or resolve your case without an indictment. While you should never speak to an investigator like a special agent and invoke your right to remain silent and have an attorney present, there are compelling reasons to meet with the federal prosecutor. As discussed above, those that cooperate tend to benefit significantly. But, you should never meet with a federal prosecutor without an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
IAttorney Patrick Korody has been practicing criminal defense for more than 15 years. He is one of the few attorneys nationally who has significant experience in state, federal, and military criminal defense. He has practiced federal criminal law in the Western District of Washington as a Special Assistant United States Attorney and the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division where he represents clients who retain him and as Criminal Justice Act appointed counsel.
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