In many cases, the first time you learn you are the subject of a federal criminal investigation is upon receipt of a “target letter” from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
If you receive a target letter, you should immediately seek assistance from experienced white collar defense counsel.
One of the experienced Georgia federal investigations defense lawyers from Griffin, Durham, Tanner, & Clarkson is standing by to answer any questions you might have at (404) 891-9150.
Read on to learn more about recent changes to federal investigations and how your attorney can help achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Important: Recent Changes to Federal Criminal Law
With each presidential administration comes changes to particular federal laws, and if your attorney is not up-to-date, your case could suffer.
Griffin, Durham, Tanner, and Clarkson make it our business to stay up-to-date with all changes in the law that come with new administrations, including those being applied due to changes in the Biden Administration policy.
Under the Biden Administration, potential criminal charges are going to start being reviewed based on the unique circumstances of each case. The most serious crime possible is no longer the only option for the government.
Contacting an attorney as soon as you think charges might be filed can be especially advantageous to your case. Your experienced federal investigations defense lawyer in Georgia can potentially negotiate with the federal prosecutor before charges are filed to help mitigate the seriousness of the case that you ultimately face, if any.
DOJ Classifications in White Collar Investigations
In general, there are three classifications DOJ will make in a white-collar investigation: witnesses, subjects, or targets.
A witness is a person who is believed to know about a violation of federal laws. The DOJ may send a letter to witnesses to obtain more information related to a criminal investigation. Although you may not be currently the focus of the criminal investigation, you cannot be compelled to provide information that may incriminate you.
If you receive a letter identifying you as a witness, it is essential to obtain qualified criminal counsel to discuss any information you may have with an attorney before testifying in front of a grand jury or making a statement to law enforcement.
A subject is a person who falls within the scope of a criminal investigation, but the Department of Justice has insufficient information to classify you as a “target” of the investigation. If you are considered a subject, it is possible criminal charges may be filed against you based on any information you provide to a federal agent or the grand jury.
Therefore, it is essential that you consult with a criminal defense attorney on receipt of the information you are a subject in a white-collar investigation.
A target, as defined by the Justice Manual, is a person who is already connected to a crime. This means the Department of Justice already has substantial evidence linking a target to a crime and, in all likelihood, will proceed with charges if the grand jury issues an indictment.
If you are identified as a target, this is the most serious classification and you should consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately.
What to Do if You’re Under Government Investigation
If you have learned that you are involved in a federal investigation, including a federal law enforcement investigation, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Your federal investigations defense lawyer in Georgia can contact the prosecutor to determine what your status in the investigation is, whether target, witness, or subject.
Often, the prosecutor will share this information with your attorney to provide a better understanding of your case and where it might go.
One issue to keep in mind is that your status can change at any time within the context of a federal investigation. Without staying updated, you might not know when your status has changed and there are steps you could be taking to protect your rights.
If a prosecutor collects new information from a witness or a subject of the investigation, the status of the others in the investigation can change instantly, as federal investigations are often very dynamic.
Knowing your status provides the ability to respond most effectively to best protect your rights. If you are the subject of a federal investigation, your federal investigations defense lawyer in Georgia can provide the legal advocacy you need to support the best possible outcome in your case.
How We’ll Help
Being the subject of a federal investigation can lead to devastating outcomes in your personal and professional life, and could lead to years in prison.
When your freedom is at risk, it is essential to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney is as essential as the many other officials you will encounter, ranging from United States Attorneys, federal probation officials, and most significantly for your case, federal judges.
In many cases, the prosecution and the judge push for the harshest possible sentence, which would lead to the greatest possible fines and term of imprisonment if you are convicted. Your experienced federal investigations defense lawyer in Georgia works to reduce the penalties for you when you are facing charges in federal court, providing you with the legal representation you need.
One of the most important benefits of having an attorney is the fact that they remove the stress of proceedings from your day-to-day life. Your attorney handles all communications and negotiations with the government so that you can focus on living your life while the proceedings develop.
Federal investigations can take years. If you are waiting for letters and having to respond to deadlines, your normal life and schedule can be negatively impacted. The stress and uncertainty surrounding proceedings can get to you.
Calling an attorney as soon as possible removes a lot of the obligations and stress you would endure were you to handle the case on your own.
What is a target letter?
A target letter sent by the Department of Justice is a formal notification of an investigation for criminal charges.
Receiving a target letter does not necessarily mean the government is prosecuting you for a crime. It is the Department of Justice’s way of notifying you of your status, which is a requirement if the DOJ seeks to issue a subpoena for your testimony.
Target letters generally describe the nature of the criminal investigation and provide notice of constitutional rights. In addition to testifying, you may be asked to produce documents related to the investigation of a crime.
A sample target letter can be found on the Department of Justice’s website.
How serious is a target letter?
Target letters are generally very serious matters. If you receive a letter with a subpoena, you must appear at the grand jury proceeding or you will be held in contempt of court for violating a subpoena.
Some offices will issue target letters that do not require an appearance before a grand jury. Like a target letter that comes with a subpoena, prompt action is required whenever you receive any kind of notice from the DOJ — this is particularly true if the notice is a formal target letter.
What happens in a grand jury investigation?
A grand jury is a body of citizens assembled to review evidence the federal government has to support proceeding with criminal charges against an individual.
Only the grand jury members, a federal prosecutor, and witnesses are allowed to participate in a grand jury proceeding. The prosecutor calls witnesses and lays out all of the evidence against the accused.
After reviewing the prosecutor’s case, the grand jury votes to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support an indictment for a crime.
Although a witness may not have counsel present when testifying before a grand jury, a witness may consult with an attorney privately during the proceeding. A witness may seek counsel to protect his or her constitutional rights and prevent self-incrimination.
Should I talk to federal agents?
Often, federal agents will attempt to question you before the grand jury stage to learn any information you might have.
Although you must appear at a grand jury proceeding if you receive a subpoena, you are not required to talk to federal agents regarding an investigation of a crime.
The agents are not required to inform you of your right to counsel if you are not in custody, but it is in your best interest to obtain a criminal defense attorney before speaking to federal agents. If you are not a target of an investigation, any information you provide may assist the federal agents in turning the spotlight on you.
If you are the subject or target of an investigation, an experienced attorney may be able to assist in clearing you of any wrongdoing.
Speak with a Georgia Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Receiving notice that you are involved in a federal criminal investigation is a serious matter.
Although a target letter is not a criminal indictment, it is a significant step in the criminal investigation process, and it is essential to get out in front of any potential criminal charges alleged against you.
If you are identified as a witness, subject, or target of a federal grand jury investigation, consult with an attorney who has experience in federal criminal defense. Griffin Durham Tanner & Clarkson has years of experience representing those accused of white-collar and other federal crimes.
If you received a Department of Justice target letter, contact Griffin Durham Tanner & Clarkson today.