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What You Need to Know Before Becoming a Confidential Informant


Being charged with a crime that has the potential for a lengthy sentence is an unpleasant prospect for even the most experienced accused criminal. No one wants to deal with the significant financial and time constraints that defending a criminal charge can entail. Therefore, it is understandable why if you have become the object of a criminal accusation, you may be inclined to do whatever it takes to make the charges get reduced or, ideally, even disappear. It may seem like becoming a confidential informant is the best way to ensure a favorable outcome. And in some contexts, agreeing to be a confidential informant can indeed be helpful to the outcome of the charges against you. But unfortunately, this is not always the case.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel recently reported that a 47-year-old felon who has spent the past decade serving as a key informant and witness for prosecutors in nearly two dozen cases was sentenced to a 40 year sentence for the 2009 second-degree murder and home-invasion robbery charges he pled guilty to. Reportedly, the man has already spent the bulk of the last ten years in an isolated jail cell and his attorney pled for leniency in his sentencing in attesting that he has helped to convict so many people that his safety is compromised at every prison in Florida. A few years back, the man asserted in a court transcript that he had worked out a deal to reduce his sentence and go home. Instead, he will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

While becoming an informant may seem like an answer to your problems, in actuality, working with the police may not help like you think it will and can even put you at more risk than you were in the first place. You should always speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney before agreeing to become an informant or otherwise supply police with information.

What Exactly is a Confidential Informant?

Generally speaking, confidential informants assist police officers in gathering incriminating information against suspects. In some situations, authorities are looking for one-time information regarding a specific crime. But in many other contexts, especially the kinds that lead to reductions in criminal charges, you will be asked to participate for an extended period of time in a plot that can include using you in a sting operation that may even be intended to incriminate your own family members or friends.

What Are the Potential Advantages of Becoming a Confidential Informant?

In exchange for being a confidential informant, prosecutors may:

  • Grant you immunity
  • Reduce your charges
  • Give you the minimum sentence
  • Drop your charges altogether

Are There Risks of Becoming a Confidential Informant?

Absolutely. These risks include:

  • Your identity being revealed. While a confidential informant is, by definition, intended to remain confidential, this does not always remain the case.
  • Becoming known as a “snitch”. A known criminal informant often has to remain in solitary confinement for his or her own safety.
  • Endangerment of family members. Unfortunately, your loved ones can become targets as a result of the information you reveal.

Are You Considering Taking On the Role of a Confidential Informant in Hopes of a Lighter Sentence?

While becoming a confidential informant can be a powerful tool in taking control of your case, this is not the time to act first and wait to see what happens second. Instead, you should obtain legal help before you agree to anything. As a former prosecutor with extensive criminal experience on both sides of the legal system, Donald C. Barrett, P.A. is the Tampa criminal defense attorney you want on your side when facing any kind of criminal charge. Schedule a consultation today.


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