In federal cases, prosecutors, the FBI and other agencies may issue what commonly gets referred to as a target letter.
As the name suggests, the authorities use a target letter often to let a person know that the authorities suspect that the person committed a federal crime and are thus investigating that person’s behavior.
Authorities often use these letters when investigating federal white-collar crimes, but they may use them in other cases as well.
The target letter might explain the nature of the accusations and any upcoming proceedings.
The letter might also warn the addressee against destroying evidence or taking other illegal steps to undermine the federal investigation.
Federal agents do not have to provide a target letter if they do not wish to do so.
They may instead go forward with a search warrant, an arrest or pursuing an indictment or other more formal action instead of sending a letter.
It is important for those receiving a target letter to remember that it is not from a court. Prosecutors or law enforcement prepare and send these letters without involvement from a judge.
The letter thus reflects their opinion and their position on a pending criminal investigation.
Virginia residents who receive a target letter should know their rights
It may seem strange for the federal government to warn a person that they are under investigation. The authorities have many reasons for choosing to do so.
Many times, the letter is a last chance for a suspect to cooperate with the authorities, perhaps after reaching a deal in which prosecutors agree to lenient treatment.
In some cases, a person’s response to a target letter could mean they never get charged with a crime.
Anyone who receives a target letter should take it very seriously since it could signal that federal criminal charges could be filed soon. A conviction in federal court can carry with it severe penalties, including a lengthy prison term.