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What to Do If You Are Under Criminal Investigation

Target Status

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 under criminal investigation, you should take action as described herein to protect yourself.

Need to Know Allegations Against You

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), learn of the charges that are coming, or to try to lessen any charges.

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.

You can learn whether or not you are designated by law enforcement or the federal prosecutor as a target of their investigation by the following.

Interviews of persons who might have information about the areas of the investigation often announce the existence of the investigation. Often, these persons will call to advise that they were contacted by law enforcement.

Target letters are letters sent to a “target” of the investigation by federal prosecutors advising the person that he/she is a target, and furthermore, that he/she is invited to make a statement.

Eventually, if you do not hire counsel to speak to the prosecutor on your behalf, a federal agent will contact you with attempts to get a statement from you. This is usually an attempt to short-cut the investigation by hoping that you will make an admission of guilt.


You need to hire an experienced federal criminal defense attorney, who knows how to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine the evidence that exists. The process can often be a lengthy one, so you should not attempt to speak with the prosecutor or agents without experienced counsel. Contact former federal prosecutor John Teakell, who can guide you through the investigation and advise as to presentations of defense evidence, appearances at grand jury or in the federal prosecutor’s office, and case strategy.

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