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Understanding the Difference Between a Suspect, Person of Interest, Target, and Subject

If you’ve ever watched one of the many crime dramas on television, you have likely heard various terms like “suspect,” “person of interest,” and more. While they all sound similar, they each play a different, specific role in an investigation.

Understanding these terms, especially if you or a loved one is involved in the investigation, can help you know what the differences are between them and what a police officer may want to talk to you about.

What is a Subject?

A subject is a person who is usually considered to have been involved in criminal activity that is being investigated. However, there may not be any specific evidence to hold this individual to account. Usually, an interview will take place with the subject to try to gather more evidence from their account, either informally or in front of the grand jury. Subjects should also seek legal advice.

What Does “Person of Interest” Mean?

This term is widely used to describe a person who may have been involved in a crime and who the police are interested in finding out more about. However, if they don’t have enough evidence to call them a suspect, they are not able to take action. 

Difference Between a Suspect & Person of Interest

What is a suspect? A suspect is a person whom the prosecutor believes committed a particular crime or crimes, and they have reasonable grounds based on evidence to make this accusation. Though the person is considered a suspect, they may not yet have been formally accused. As not all investigations are criminal investigations, there may be some cases where there are no suspects, but law enforcement officers still require information from relevant people.

What is a Target?

A target is an individual whom the prosecutors have managed to compile significant evidence against. The target is usually only named when prosecutors feel they have sufficient evidence to bring about criminal charges. On occasion, the US Attorney’s Office sends targets a letter to let them know that they are under criminal investigation, which should catalyze them to seek legal representation. An individual identified as a target, therefore, is more likely to assert their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions or cooperate with the law enforcement officers.

What Should I Do if I’m Under Investigation?

A federal criminal investigation can involve many different people, and not all of them will be accused of breaking the law. Prosecutors are not legally bound to tell individuals whether they are subjects, targets, or persons of interest, and therefore seeking legal guidance is the safest course of action.

If you would like to find out more about how Bobby Dale Barina, Attorney At Law can help to protect your rights and fight your case, contact us today at 254-523-4446.