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So, you have received a "Target Letter" from the Feds...

Posted by Sean Cecil | Dec 19, 2022 | 0 Comments

...seek competent legal counsel immediately! There is a possibility that you can actually avoid criminal charges that are likely to have a devastating impact on your life.

What is a "Target Letter"?

A target letter is a device used by federal prosecutors to inform a criminal suspect that they are known to be in some way involved in criminal activity. It is usually an invitation to voluntarily testify before a federal grand jury or meet and discuss the matter with federal agents and/or prosecutors.

There may not be many details included in the target letter. This should not be construed as indicative of ignorance. If you receive a target letter from the federal government, your involvement in criminal behavior is known. Generally speaking, these letters are provided to someone who may not be a person who the feds would prosecute individually, but someone who likely knows information about an individual or group of great interest. They are usually seeking details regarding someone else's behavior, and there is a potential opportunity for the target letter recipient to improve their situation.

I have received a Target Letter what should I do?

If you receive a target letter, you should contact legal counsel immediately. Competent legal counsel. This means an attorney who has experience defending and negotiating the fraught and frigid waters of federal criminal investigations and prosecution. Do not contact the federal prosecutor without competent, experienced legal counsel!

Do not ignore a Target Letter

I once represented a person who failed to take appropriate action in response to a target letter from a federal prosecutor. This person was involved in a drug trafficking organization but was not a main figure. They tried to do the smart thing, by contacting a lawyer. Unfortunately, the lawyer either was unfamiliar with federal prosecutions or was incompetent, because their advice was akin to the "never talk to the police" line of legal counsel. "Never talk to the police" may be a decent starting point for street encounters with uniformed police, but when it comes to serious criminal investigations at a pre-indictment stage, it is much much much better advice to "never talk to police without an attorney." My client took the lawyers advice to not talk. They were indicted and charged with federal drug crimes subject to mandatory minimum prison time. All because the prosecutors were keen to gather evidence and potential testimony. They were formally arrested and spent some time in pre-trial detention as a consequence of this decision. Both of these consequences might have been avoided if a qualified attorney had contacted the prosecutor on their behalf.

When dealing with legal advice, accurate absolutes are rare. Often times the answer to a legal question begins with a frustrating "depends." Just because you receive a target letter doesn't mean you will always want to be meeting with federal agents to spill your guts. Rather, seasoned defense counsel will meet with you and discuss your situation in detail. They will respond to the target letter on your behalf. Hopefully slow things down a little bit to get a grasp of the scope of your situation. After spending some time discussing the situation with both target and prosecutor, it's possible that competent legal counsel will conclude that it's best to decline further cooperation. Or maybe it's best to enter an agreement and have a proffer meeting.

If you or a loved one is the target of a federal criminal investigation, it is important to immediately contact competent legal counsel with experience defending federal charges and criminal investigations. Our firm has the necessary experience to guide you through what could be the most important phase of a federal criminal case, and is available for consultation and representation at our downtown Raleigh office, just two blocks from the New Bern avenue federal courthouse.

About the Author

Sean Cecil

Sean is an experienced advocate dedicated to justice for all people. He believes that individual human rights outweigh the freedom to make an easy dollar.

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