Written by attorney Luke Joseph Nichols

Working With the Police as a Confidential Informant

Many people who are arrested for serious drug crimes are approached by detectives wanting information. Those detectives may or may not make vague promises of assistance. If you are approached by the police for information about criminal activity, immediately tell your attorney, whether you intend to cooperate or not.

If you are considering talking to the police in exchange for assistance, or if you have information regarding serious criminal activity, you need to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

Working with the police can bring wonderful results. It can also be an utter disaster if done wrong. A competent attorney can:

  • · Make sure that the police hold up their end of the bargain
  • · Protect your identity
  • · Protect you from incriminating yourself in additional crimes
  • · Coach and assist you
  • · Help you get results that will make a difference

What Benefits Can I Expect From Cooperating With Police?

Giving information to the police is not a magic wand. There are very few detectives or prosecutors who will make any concrete promises regarding deals.

However, a rule of thumb is that the prosecution will dismiss one of your charges if you help them get at least two other arrests of equivalent seriousness. For example, if you are arrested for Possession With Intent to Distribute "PWID" cocaine (25 grams) you would normally have to help the police get two felony PWID arrests for hard drugs of approximately the same quantity to get the charges dropped. Those two arrests can be for the same person or two different people.

Because the police and prosecution will usually not make any promises, it is vitally important that you have an attorney that has an excellent working relationship with detectives and the prosecution. That relationship is what will protect an informant from being betrayed by the police or prosecution.

Have Your Attorney Present

Cooperating with the police makes a big difference in your case but only if it is done right. Always have your attorney present if and when you ever talk to the police.

Having your attorney present is important because your attorney can prevent you from saying something that could hurt you. Your attorney can also help guarantee that the police hold up their end of the bargain.

What Do I Have to Do?

If you decide to cooperate with the police, the first thing that will happen is an interview. The informant, the detectives, and the defense attorney will all sit down and the informant will tell the police what he knows. Typically, the detectives will have lists of names and phone numbers from your phone if it was confiscated.

If the police like what they hear, they will want to arrange for the informant to buy drugs. If you are on probation, you may not be allowed to participate in a drug buy.

Sometimes informants arrange for an undercover detective to buy drugs from a suspect. Sometimes the informant will buy drugs themselves. Sometimes an informant will simply inform the detective when a suspect has the drugs in their car or house so the police can raid them. The police may do a combination of these things as well.

For more serious cases the police will often have the informant make several transactions before they arrest a suspect. The arrest may occur minutes or days after the arranged drug buy.

Most stings are arranged so that the suspect does not know who set them up and so that the informant does not have to testify in court. This is done to protect the informant and to prevent the prosecution from having to rely on an informant in order to get a conviction.

Talking with Detectives

The informant should avoid talking about things that they have done or the details surrounding their immediate case. Instead, the conversation should be focused on what other people are doing. If the conversation strays to talking about the informant, the attorney can interrupt. If an informant is ever nervous or has question they will usually be allowed to stop and privately consult with their attorney.

In some jurisdictions, the prosecution will offer an official immunity letter that guarantees protection from prosecution for crimes confessed during a confidential interview. In jurisdictions where immunity letters are used, they will often not guarantee immunity from violent crimes.

The interview will go more smoothly if the informant and his attorney discuss what they will talk about prior to meeting with the detectives.

What Crimes do Detectives Care the Most About?

Not all information has the same value. The police give bigger rewards for information that leads to bigger convictions. While any information may be useful, the following is a list of the top 10 drug crimes that narcotics detectives really want information about.

  1. Shipping drugs through the mail. 2. Carrying a weapon while dealing or possessing. 3. Manufacturing drugs (Meth, GHB, etc.) 4. Transporting more than .5 ounces across state lines 5. Growing marijuana 6. Prescription forgery or fraud scams 7. Prescription drug arrangements with corrupt doctors or pharmacists 8. Large-quantity dealers 9. Dealers of heroin and other hard drugs (cocaine, crack, mali, ecstasy, etc.) 10. Gang or organized crime drug activity

Information about any criminal activity is important, but typically narcotics detectives care most about narcotics crimes in their own jurisdictions.

What Kind of Information Do the Detectives Want?

The worst thing you can do is show up to a meeting with detectives and then waste their time. The detective’s opinion of how helpful you have been can have a huge effect on your case.

Talk with your attorney prior to the meeting and share what information you have. You attorney will be able to help coach you and will be able to keep a record of the information you gave so that detectives cannot later claim you did not help.

Your attorney can also help you communicate more effectively by making sure you are prepared with the appropriate hard facts and information.

Here is a list of the types of information you may want to provide.

  1. Full names (not just nicknames) 2. Home address, work location, telephone number, and the kind of car they drive (make, model & color) 3. Types of drugs they use or deal 4. Quantities that they use or deal. 5. How often they “re-up" or renew their stock of drugs 6. Locations where each person deals 7. Locations where they store their drugs 8. Names of their friends, customers, and family members 9. Whether or not you think you could get them to sell you drugs or whether you know someone they would sell to 10. Whether or not they are involved in bigger crimes (have a weapon, transport across state lines, ship drugs in the mail, manufacture or grow drugs, etc.).

Before you meet with detectives, go through your information with your attorney. If you don’t know someone’s address, full name, or other information, then try to find out prior to the meeting.

The more complete your information, the more impressed the detectives will be and the more likely it will result in a favorable outcome for your case.

Coordinating With the Police

If the police like your information, they will want to use you to arrange drug purchases. Arranging a drug buy can take weeks or months and can take many attempts before it succeeds.

Not only do you have to arrange a purchase but you must do it when you, the police, and the suspect are all available. If you want your cooperation to help your pending case, you have to achieve results before your trial. If you wait until the last minute you will probably fail.

When cooperating with the police, the detectives expect you to return their phone calls quickly. When the detectives are ready to do a drug buy, they expect you to drop what you were doing and help them immediately. The detectives will not usually return these courtesies because they are not facing criminal charges.

If you decide to cooperate with the police, be prepared to help on their terms, when they ask for it, and not the other way around.

If the police are slow using your services, talk to your attorney. If the police are being difficult or rude to you then talk to your attorney. Your attorney can do a lot to smooth things over.

Is Cooperating with the Police Dangerous?

Cooperating with the police is extremely common. Every day dozens of people are working with the police as part of a plea deal or for money.

Normally, defendants who become informants are not present during an arrest and they normally do not have to testify in court. Often, the suspect does not even know who set them up. For the vast majority of defendants, giving the police information is safe when done with their attorney present.

However, if you believe that a specific group or certain individuals pose a serious threat to your or your family’s safety, discuss it with your attorney. There are several things that your attorney can do to increase your safety.

Luke J. Nichols

Nichols & Green pllc

(703) 383-9222

[email protected]

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