Skip to main content

Why do attorneys advise against being a confidential informant but this type of things exist all the time?

Stockton, CA |

Does the DA and police really screw ppl over by enticing them to tell on others even when a counsel is involved?

+ Read More

Attorney answers 4

Posted

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.
http://nyr.kr/XDRx0S

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....

This answer is provided under the Avvo.com “Terms and Conditions of Use” (“ToU”), particularly ¶9 which states that any information provided is not intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship between you and me or any other attorney. Such information is intended for general informational purposes only and should be used only as a starting point for addressing your legal issues. In particular, my answers and those of others are not a substitute for an in-person or telephone consultation with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction about your specific legal issue, and you should not rely solely upon Legal Information you obtain from this website or other resources which may be linked to an answer for informational purposes. You understand that questions and answers or other postings to the Site are not confidential and are not subject to attorney-client privilege. The full Avvo ToU are set forth at http://www.avvo.com/support/terms . In addition, while similar legal principles often apply in many states, I am only licensed to practice in the State of New York and Federal Courts. Any general information I provide about non-New York laws should be checked with an attorney licensed to practice in your State. Lastly, New York State Court rules (22 NYCRR Part 1200, Rule 7.1) also require me to inform you that my answers and attorney profile posted on the Avvo.com site may be considered "attorney advertising" and that "prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome".

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Posted

p.s. I'm moving this question from "ethics" which deals with attorney disciplinary rules to which this question's not really relevant to "criminal defense" where more lawyers practicing criminal law may see this and weigh in....

David B Pittman

David B Pittman

Posted

Great answer!!

Joseph Salvatore Farina

Joseph Salvatore Farina

Posted

Controversial subject but I'm not sure it's all that black and white. You make many valid points, but every case is different. I handle mostly sex cases including lots of child molest cases, so I know how hated child molesters are by despised by the general prison population and prison guards as well.

Posted

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
(310) 707-7131
www.sethweinsteinlaw.com

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.

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Posted

Point (3) is a very good point and is discussed in the New Yorker article I cited: now police in Florida as a result of the parent's lawsuit and "Rachel's Law" that followed it are advised to tell potential CIs that being a snitch or informant might not lead to any reduction in their criminal charges if the police aren't happy enough with the results and they may be asked to put themselves at risk repeatedly until the police feel they are disposable as CIs.

Posted

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.

Posted

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?

Criminal defense topics

Recommended articles about Criminal defense

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer