The First Notification
The first indication that you may have that a federal investigation is under way is the target letter. If you receive one, it means that the federal prosecutor has reason to believe that you may have been involved in a federal crime. In other words, you have been “targeted” for investigation under a federal grand jury.
Purpose of the Target Letter
The primary purpose of the target letter is to alert persons that they are targets of an investigation, as well as to notify such persons that they have a right to legal counsel. By sending the target letter, prosecutors sometimes are sending the signal that they are interested in initiating plea bargaining procedures, or event that they are interested in potentially seeking cooperation from the target against other, more serious targets. Obviously, it is critical to have an attorney representing the target in such potential discussions and negotiation. While the prosecutor may issue a subpoena requiring you to present yourself, it does not follow that you are required to testify. In fact, it is usually better if you do not. Normally, your attorney will invoke the Fifth Amendment clause on your behalf, thus obeying the subpoena without risk of answering questions that could lead to self-incrimination.
Lack of the Target Letter
Sometimes, a subpoena accompanies the target letter, requiring you to appear before the grand jury. If that happens, it is likely that your attorney will advise you to invoke your Fifth Amendment right to silence. If you receive a subpoena but no target letter accompanies it, it does not necessarily indicate that you cannot later be designated a target. Lack of the letter or the form that states the recipient’s rights is no bar to being indicted, nor does it preclude the possibility that testimony may be brought forward at the trial against the defendant.
Your Attorney’s Objectives
Prior to indictment, options for you and your New Jersey criminal defense lawyer include:
- Taking steps to persuade the prosecution that he or she has no or insufficient grounds for an indictment.
- Negotiating for immunity, a lesser charge or a lighter penalty in return for testimony concerning a guiltier party.
- Being alert to what is happening, study the events and begin to prepare your defense if it becomes evident that an indictment is the likely outcome.
Seek Legal Counsel Now
If you have received a target letter, you are in immediate and dire need of a lawyer. Contact Tim Anderson, your New Jersey criminal defense attorney, by calling 732-212-2812.