Have You Been Charged With A Serious Crime?

Witness, subject, target or person of interest: What’s the difference?

On Behalf of | Aug 19, 2022 | Federal Crimes

You’ve found yourself caught up in a federal investigation of some sort – and you’re trying to figure out just how much trouble you’re really in.

One clue may be how the authorities describe you. What exactly is the difference between a witness, a subject, a target and a person of interest?


Being described as a “witness” means you’re in the least vulnerable position – but don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re invulnerable to prosecution. A witness is someone that the authorities think may have information that they need for their case. If in the course of providing information, you inadvertently confess to a crime, you could still be charged.


This means that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering whether or not you may have committed a crime. They aren’t sure – but you are definitely in peril of eventually facing charges. They may be gathering evidence against you right now.


This puts you firmly in the crosshairs of the federal prosecutor. The DOJ may already have substantial evidence that you’re guilty of a crime – even if they haven’t finished their investigation. You are almost assuredly about to be charged with a crime.

Persons of interest

This is a nebulous term that the authorities use when they don’t know exactly what you are – or they’re trying to minimize the danger you’re in so that you won’t “lawyer up” as quickly. It’s better to assume the worst.

Regardless of the way you’re being described by the authorities, it’s wisest to seek legal guidance right away. Federal law is perilous for the unwary.