Confidential informants do two things: (1) inform on their friends and family's possibly criminal activities and throw them under the bus to save their own skins, or (2) play amateur vice squad officers doing dangerous things like trying to buy or sell drugs or guns to suspected criminals in "sting" operations while wearing a wire.
Even if the police tell you they will keep your identity secret, your friends may suspect that you "dropped a dime" on them if they are busted and you miraculously walk.
Or, if you're playing amateur "Dick Tracy" you can walk into the lion's den and wind up dead.
See this article "The Throwaways" by Sarah Stillman about a 23 year old woman busted for pot in Florida who agreed to be a CI to get off the charges and wound up dead in a botched gun sale sting.
So the short answer: is being a CI to save your own skin better than losing your friends, life and integrity or should you just man up and take some other plea bargain or trial that doesn't compromise your integrity? And if it does result in just a reduction of charges and you're going to serve jail or prison time anyway, be aware that "snitches" and "rats" compete with child molesters as the most despised class of inmates and it may very well get out and you will need to be isolated in protective custody if you're lucky or end up with a shank in your back in the yard if you're not.
I don't think having a counsel involved changes anything, except that usually the police try to make the deal before the arrest and retaining counsel so there's not an issue with someone being busted and then their friends wisely avoid them. I don't think counsel typically encourage their clients to become informants, but I don't know....I'm only stating my own views here....
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Attorneys advise against being a Confidential Informant because 1) it can be dangerous to the CI 2) a lot of what CIs say is incorrect just to get them exonerated 3) the government can find something wrong with your work as a CI and invalidate the plea agreement.
Seth Weinstein, Esq.
Practicing throughout Southern California
This reply should NOT be considered a legal opinion of your case / inquiry. At this time I do not have sufficient factual/legal documentation to give a complete answer to your question and there may be more to the issues you raised then I have set out in my brief reply.
This is a tough question to answer and many criminal defense attorneys are bitterly split on whether to represent a person who becomes a confidential informant. Some won't do it for the reasons outlined by others in this post and truly believe that CI's are the lowest form of human beings who are just trying to save their bacon. The CI exposes themselves to all kinds of dangers in county jail and state prisons and is they reason they are usually kept in protective custody or administrative segregation. And there have been many instances where CI's have lied just to get a lighter sentence or some other benefit from the government. If a CI is cooperating with the cops and DA's and sign some kind of written agreement, defense counsel has to be told and will get a copy of the agreement. Then the CI will be aggressively cross-examined by the defense attorney at trial on their cooperation with the police and DA. A DA will use every trick in the book to get a conviction, even if that means turning to a CI to get at the bigger fish.
Police and prosecutors lie to defendants all the time to get them to confess to something they didn't do, make incriminating statements, or take a plea deal that's much harsher than they really need to take. Why would you trust them when the tell you that they'll give you lenient treatment if you'll agree to do their dirty work for them?