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What a target letter is and what to do if you receive one

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Certain letters received in the mail can be an indicator of major legal challenges to come. For example, some people receive letters during tax season indicating that they must undergo an audit due to discrepancies in their tax records.

There are other types of letters that may be less common but are even more concerning than tax-related missives received from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For example, occasionally, someone opens their mail to discover that they have received a target letter from the Justice Department or other state authorities.

What is a target letter, and how should someone respond after they receive one?

A target letter is a warning about an investigation

Often, the criminal investigation process begins without someone’s awareness. Police departments and even federal regulatory agencies may begin investigating quietly at first. They want to connect with witnesses and review evidence that someone might otherwise try to hide, alter or destroy. However, it may become necessary to communicate with the party subject to the investigation. A target letter is often a warning sign that someone’s arrest or indictment might incur in the near future.

The letter may include language advising someone that they have the option of speaking before the grand jury that could decide to bring charges against them. Target letters can sometimes arrive not long before federal search warrants. How should someone respond after receiving a target letter advising them of an ongoing investigation?

Those under investigation need support

Even when someone is absolutely certain of their own innocence, they still need to protect themselves legally. Not every investigation exonerates the person accused of criminal activity. Investigators hoping to prosecute may allow that desire to color how the state views and analyzes evidence. Therefore, those aware of a pending investigation often need legal guidance as soon as possible.

A criminal defense attorney can educate someone about their rights and clarify the law in regard to the charges that they face and the possible penalties the state might impose. An attorney can also assist someone during the execution of a search warrant or if they must meet with investigators to discuss the matter. Being proactive about protecting oneself when facing a criminal investigation could help someone achieve the best outcome possible.