Federal investigations can dig both broad and deep — and not everybody who gets subpoenaed ends up facing charges.
Often, the language that’s used by the authorities to describe someone connected to an investigation is a clue about their status. Whether you’re a witness, a person of interest or a target could make a big difference in your future.
What is a witness?
A witness is someone who may (or may not) have information that the federal investigators want. They may not have been involved in the crime, and they may not be suspected of any wrongdoing — although they could be in legal peril if they inadvertently admit to some kind of crime during their interviews with the police.
What is a target?
The target is someone who is strongly believed to have committed some kind of federal offense. In the early days of an investigation, the government may use the term “suspect” to describe someone whose activity they consider suspicious. Once they shift the term to “target,” however, you can usually expect an indictment to happen.
What is a person of interest?
This is actually not an official term, and it’s often used by authorities in a purposefully vague way. They may choose to use this term instead of “suspect” so that they lull a possible defendant into a false sense of security to get them talking. Or, they may purposefully make it sound as if a witness could be a suspect so that they pressure the witness into cooperating — if only to clear their name.
Whatever your situation, you need to remember that these designations can be very fluid. It doesn’t take much for a witness to end up a person of interest or a target. If a federal investigation is blooming around you, get experienced legal assistance right away.