Becoming a Confidential Informant to Reduce Your Charge


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A confidential informant is someone who trades information about illegal activity or helps law enforcement with making arrests for some type of benefit. If you become a confidential informant for a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency, you could have your charges dropped, or more likely, have them and the potential punishment reduced.

Being a confidential information can be helpful to your case. However, it is not always the best arrangement. Working with the police may not help like you think it will and can even put you at risk. If you are ever approached about being an informant, which is common in drug cases, or you believe you have information the police may want, always speak with an attorney first. You need to be well aware of the risks and have any type of agreement thoroughly defined before you say yes or no.

At Fienman Defense, we know how the Pennsylvania criminal process works and are here to protect you. We will thoroughly review your case, discuss what kind of offer prosecutors may be willing to make, and advise you on the benefits and risks involved with being a confidential informant.

Contact us online or at (215) 839-9529 to schedule a time to talk.

What Does it Really Mean to be a Confidential Informant?

If a law enforcement officer approaches you about being an informant, it is time to speak with an attorney. In some situations, your obligation would be a one-time thing. The police or agency may be looking for information about a crime that has been committed or a suspect they are already investigating. If the police suspect a crime is going to be committed soon, they may want all the information you have about when and where the crime is going to happen and who is involved.

However, being an informant is not usually that simple. Being a confidential informant could take you out from behind closed doors and require you to act on behalf of the police within your community and circle of family and friends. You may be asked to perform certain acts on behalf of the police, such as introduce an undercover officer to a suspect or to set up meetings. You could be asked to take part in a sting operation by setting up a drug or prostitution deal. You may also have to lead to a certain number of arrests.

In many situations, being a confidential informant is not a quick fix. It is rarely a matter of days or weeks. Instead, your participation could be required for months or years.

Also, the police expect your information and assistance to lead to results. You are there to ensure they catch criminals and that the prosecution has enough evidence to win the cases. If your actions do not lead to arrests or charges, then you may not receive the benefit your bargain. In fact, if you do not completely fulfill your obligations, your charges could move forward without any reduction or possibility of reduced penalties.

Before becoming a confidential informant, you need to be aware of what you would have to do in exchange. A lawyer can help you negotiate this with the police and prosecutors. The police will want to get you to do as much as possible before your charges are reduced or dropped. Your lawyer will fight for the deal to be as balanced as possible, so you do not take too great of a risk for too little benefit.

The Potential Benefit of Being a Confidential Informant

Being a confidential informant can be well worth it in certain circumstances. For providing information or performing certain actions for the police, the prosecution may:

  • Drop some or all the charges against you,
  • Reduce some or all the charges to a lower offense,
  • Grant you immunity, or
  • Sentence you to the minimal penalty for pleading guilty.

It is rare for your charges to be completely dropped. Instead, it is much more common for your charges to be reduced, so you face a lighter sentence. Your attorney can also negotiate a minimal or alternative penalty for the charges within your deal.

It is important to never assume the benefit that you will receive for being a confidential informant. This needs to be thoroughly discussed between your attorney, the prosecution, and put in writing. You need to know exactly what you have to do and what you will get in exchange for your cooperation before you decide.

Risks Associated With Being a Confidential Informant

Consider what this arrangement means for your future, aside from a better outcome in a criminal case. While many informants remain confidential, you could be asked or forced to testify in court. If you provide information regarding powerful or violent criminals, being named in court could be dangerous for you or your family.

You may have heard about the “Informer’s Privilege.” This relates to the privilege of keeping your identity a secret. However, it is not your legal privilege. It is the prosecution’s. Ultimately, the prosecutors decide whether to name someone as an informant in a criminal case. Because of the constitutional protections afforded to criminal defendants, the prosecution can also be forced to name you in certain circumstances.

If a defense attorney can demonstrate that knowing an informant’s identity is necessary for their client to receive a fair trial, and the factors in favor of revealing your name outweigh those supporting secrecy, then a judge could require the prosecution to provide your name.

A judge will consider many factors in determining whether your name and assistance should be revealed. These include things such as you only provided a minor tip to law enforcement or you cannot provide any more important evidence support keeping your identity secret. So does evidence that naming you would put you or your family in danger. However, other factors may promote revealing your identity. For example, if you took part in the criminal activity, will probably act as a witness for the prosecution anyway, or you could clarify a conflict between the evidence.

Let Fienman Defense Help You

In these difficult situations, it’s important to remember that you always have the right to an attorney. This includes during any discussion relating to becoming a confidential information. You can and should have a lawyer negotiate the agreement, draft or carefully review any written documents before you agree to the work with law enforcement.

While becoming a confidential information may be the right decision for you, it is a choice that requires careful consideration. At Fienman Defense, we can discuss all the potential benefits and risks and help you reach decision. We will also thoroughly negotiate every aspect with the prosecution to avoid any unnecessary dangers and ensure you are not taken advantage of.

To learn more about being a confidential informant, call us at (215) 839-9529 or use our online form to schedule a consultation.