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What To Do If You Are The Target Of A Criminal Investigation

Status of Person Investigated

A “target” of a criminal investigation is a person against whom the prosecutor and law enforcement are working to obtain formal charges, that is, an Indictment. It is a term that is used in both federal investigations and state investigations, although the term “target” is associated more with federal criminal investigations. If you are targeted in a criminal investigation, you should take action as referenced herein to protect yourself. The U.S. Attorney’s Manual, 9-11.151, defines a target as:

“A ‘target’ is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant. An officer or employee of an organization which is a target is not automatically considered a target even if such officer’s or employee’s conduct contributed to the commission of the crime by the target organization. The same lack of automatic target status holds true for organizations which employ, or employed, an officer or employee who is a target.”

A person may also be the subject of an investigation, which federally, means that prosecution does not have enough evidence to consider the person a “target” yet there is some evidence to show or suggest the person’s involvement. The term “subject” is a term associated with federal criminal investigations. A subject of an investigation may ultimately become a target, or he/she may ultimately not be prosecuted. The U.S. Attorney’s Manual, also at 9-11.151, defines a “subject” as:

“A subject of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.”

A subject may be considered a “person of interest” as that term is sometimes used, although not specifically related to a federal investigation.


If you learn that you are the target of an investigation, you need to learn all you can about the allegations of the wrongdoing, and the source of the allegations. This is done by having your attorney contact the prosecutor to speak with him. Generally, you can at least verify that an investigation is on going, whether or not you are being targeted, and the focus of the investigation.

Defend/ Push-Back

The reason you need to determine the allegation is so your attorney can develop a plan to discredit the allegations. You want to do this as much as possible to dissuade prosecution, prevent a Grand Jury Indictment (formal charges), or at least to ascertain the charges that will be forthcoming, and further to mitigate the charges if you cannot prevent a criminal prosecution.

Statements/ Interview

DO NOT MAKE A STATEMENT to the law enforcement about the subject area of investigation, whether you are in custody or not. There is no upside to it…

Learn of Target Status By

  • Interviews
  • Target Letter
  • Contact by Investigator


  • Hire experienced counsel
  • Contact the United States Attorneys Office
  • Discuss allegations with the client
  • Determine what information the prosecutors and investigators may not have
  • Schedule presentations to the United States Attorneys Office/District Attorney
  • Give the presentations to the United States Attorneys Office/District Attorney
  • This may be a lengthy process
  • In State Court we may be able to make a presentation to the Grand Jury in attempt to get a “No- Bill” (Grand Jury’s refusal to indict)


  • Learn allegation details
  • Know what to push back with
  • May be able to dissuade prosecution or a No –Bill

OR alternatively, to mitigate the charge or outcome

  • At least we will know the actions or charges that may be forthcoming
  • If an Indictment is coming, or a Complaint, you will usually be able to have the client self- surrender
  • The bond may well be more favorable

State Court

  • It is not a process like federal court
  • State Court – may not have lead time for an investigation unless it is a white- collar offense

– State investigations usually are not as long as federal

  • State Court – may not learn of target status
  • Usually have the opportunity to make a Grand Jury presentation to try to convince the Grand Jury to not Indict

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