What is a target letter?
A target letter is letter that a federal prosecutor sends to someone who is suspected of committing a federal crime. The letter typically informs the recipient (ie, the target) that he or she is under criminal investigation, and asks the target to get in touch with the prosecutor or a particular investigating agent. It also might advise the recipient that he or she will be called to testify before a federal grand jury.
Do I have to talk to the prosecutor or investigators?
Absolutely not. Although every case is unique, we uniformly advise targets not to communicate directly with prosecutors or law enforcement agents. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals against self-incrimination, which means that a target has the absolute right to remain silent. Any communication with a prosecutor or investigator should be through counsel.
What should I do if I receive a target letter?
If you receive a target letter, you should contact a qualified attorney immediately. If you cannot afford an attorney, schedule an appointment with the local federal pubic defender to find out if you qualify for a court-appointed attorney. The worst thing that you can do is to try to communicate with the prosecutor or agent directly. The second worst thing that you can do is to ignore the letter entirely.
What will happen if I am indicted?
It depends on the nature of the crime and whether you have a lawyer. If you or your lawyer have been in communication with the prosecutor or case agent, you often will be asked to turn yourself in. If, however, you are implicated in a violent crime, a drug trafficking crime, or are perceived as being a flight risk, you may be arrested without any prior notice. Upon your arrest, you will be brought before a magistrate judge for your initial appearance. The prosecutor will then advise the judge whether the government is seeking an order of detention, requiring you to remain in custody until the case is resolved.