"DOJ Defendants" can have slightly different meanings depending on whether the U.S. Department of Justice (the "DOJ") is conducting an investigation or whether it has filed a formal law suit in court against a person or a company.
United States Attorneys' Offices are part of the DOJ. Sometimes people refer to a U.S. Attorney's Office as the DOJ. Most often, though, "DOJ" is used to refer to the Department of Justice's main office in Washington, D.C., as opposed to the U.S. Attorney's Offices located in each State.
When the DOJ is conducting an investigation it usually believes, based on evidence available to it at the time, that a federal crime may have occurred. Often the DOJ is assisted in its investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") and/or one or more other federal investigatory agencies. During a DOJ investigation, a person or company that the DOJ believes actually did commit a crime is often referred to as a "target" of the investigation. Over the course of a DOJ or FBI investigation, someone who the DOJ or FBI initially believe may be a potential "target" may come to be viewed as just an innocent witness. Likewise, someone who the DOJ or FBI initially believe is just a witness may come to be viewed as a "target". During an investigation, sometimes people outside of the DOJ and FBI may refer to targets of the investigation as DOJ defendants in the investigation.
Over the course of its investigation, the DOJ may come to believe that one or more people, or one or more companies, did in fact commit a crime. A person or company may be able to get the DOJ to agree to settle the situation during the investigation. The settlement is typically documented in an agreement (called a "Plea Agreement"), which is then presented to a court for the court's approval. A person or company that enters into a plea agreement with the DOJ is formally called a "defendant" when the DOJ presents the plea agreement to the court.
Typically, if a person or company does not settle the situation by entering into a plea agreement during the investigation, the DOJ will present the evidence that it has to a federal grand jury and ask the grand jury whether it finds enough probable cause to believe that the person or company did commit a crime. At this time, the person or company may be referred to as a "grand jury defendant" or a "defendant" in the grand jury investigation.
If the grand jury does find enough evidence, it can issue an "indictment". The DOJ begins a formal lawsuit against a person or company when it files the grand jury's indictment in federal court. This lawsuit in a federal court is usually referred to as a "prosecution" or a "criminal case". Once a prosecution or criminal case is brought, the person or company that the DOJ is suing is called a "defendant".
If you would like information about The Pickholz Law Offices' experience representing DOJ Defendants in investigations involving securities frauds and corporate crimes, please feel free to click on the "Our Cases & Results" link and the other links on the right side of this page.