Confidential Informants

To become a confidential informant means you give information to a law enforcement agency about illegal activity. This could entail details of who is or was involved in a crime, how an offense took place, when criminal activity is planned in the future, and much more. What the police and prosecutors are looking for is information that can be used as evidence in court to gain convictions.

It might sound easy to be a criminal informant. However, it is not necessarily a one-time job. You may be asked to maintain your relationships with certain individuals, get acquainted with other people, or continue to be part of a criminal organization or conspiracy.

It is rare for someone to come forward to the police and suggest they become a confidential informant. Instead, law enforcement agents often use this as a bargaining tool while you are being investigated or charged with one or more offenses. They want information you have, and you have a vested interest in facing a less serious crime or no charges at all. However, becoming a confidential information is not always in your best interests. You need to speak with an experienced criminal lawyer about your options before agreeing to anything.

Call Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970 to discuss your rights and options.

Learn the Details About Your Role as an Informant

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a confidential informant during your criminal case, you need a lawyer to represent you. You will need to negotiate with the police regarding your precise role and expectations. The police may want more than specific and useful information. They may need introductions to other offenders or for you to set up meetings, such as a drug deal. You may be asked to testify at trial. You need to know exactly what they want you to do and how.

You also need to learn what you cannot do after taking on the role of a confidential informant. You do not have legal immunity. In the movies, you may see the police looking the other way when informants break the law. That is not real life. If you are found participating in an offense, your position as an informant can be revoked, and you could be charged with an additional crime.

Never agree to become a confidential informant without speaking to an attorney and learning what would actually be expected of you. Agreeing to something you do not fully understand could put you in a difficult or dangerous position in the future. If you default on your agreement, you will find yourself facing criminal charges.

Will My Charges be Dropped if I Become a Confidential Informant?

In addition to fully understanding your role, you need to know exactly what you will get for playing the part of a confidential informant. The trade-off for this role is that you receive some sort of preferential treatment, which may include:

  • Having some or all of your charges dismissed
  • Having one or more charges reduced
  • Receiving the minimum penalty upon pleading guilty

It is essential that you do not assume your charges will be dropped once you give the police the information they want. Instead, work with an attorney to clearly identify what you will receive for becoming a confidential informant. Only when there is a detailed offer on the table can you decide whether this is the right course for you.

You also need to consider protection for in the future. If you are being asked to inform on powerful individuals or criminal organizations, then you must consider how your identity will be protected and what happens if someone else finds out. Can the law enforcement agency offer you any protection? If not, then thoroughly discuss the risks with your attorney before agreeing to being a police informant.

Protect Yourself While Informing on Others

If you choose to be an informant, you must be careful. You need to understand how to pass along the necessary information without incriminating yourself. If you give the police information regarding your involvement with criminal activity that took place before or during your time as an informant, it could end the working relationship and lead to additional criminal charges.

Can My Identity Ever Be Revealed?

In North Caroline, there is a concept known as Informer’s Privilege, which is the right to keep your identity a secret. However, it is not really your privilege, it is the state’s. North Carolina has the right to never disclose your identity during a case unless a specific law requires it to do so. The purpose of this privilege is to ensure your safety, and to ensure you will continue giving law enforcement and the state’s attorney information.

That being said, there are situations when the state may freely identify you or when a defendant may force your name to be revealed in court. If a defendant can show that disclosure of your identity is essential to a fair determination of their case, the state may be required to give up your name. This is a heavy burden on the defendant who must prove that your name should be revealed and establish one or more factors, such as:

  • You participated in the crime
  • There is a conflict between the defendant’s and state’s evidence, which you could clarify
  • You are a likely witness for the state at trial

There are also factors the defendant may need to overcome. Certain circumstances support keeping your identity a secret, including:

  • You merely provided a tip to law enforcement
  • You present no opportunity to clarify evidence
  • There is independent evidence from the information you provided supports the defendant’s guilt
  • Disclosing your identity would put you in danger

Let Breeden Law Office Help

Being a confidential informant is not always like it’s portrayed in the movies. You probably will not need witness protection. The truth is, many people become informants as part of plea bargains every day. You may have your charges reduced or dropped for simply providing the police with names, dates, and locations related to criminal activity or helping to set up one sting operation. It is highly unlikely you will be nearby when any other person is arrested based on your information.

However, there are situations in which being an informant is risky and dangerous. It is not an agreement to enter into lightly. If you are approached about becoming a confidential informant, you should immediately speak with North Carolina criminal defense attorney Jonathan Breeden about the pros and cons of this situation. Your circumstances may lend themselves to a quick agreement, or you may prefer fighting for your rights the old-fashioned way – in court.

To discuss becoming a confidential informant, contact Breeden Law Office at (919) 661-4970 today.

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