What are informants, and why does law enforcement work with them on a regular
basis? Informants, otherwise known as
confidential informants, or “snitches” are in the practice of giving law enforcement
information in exchange for avoiding punishment or criminal liability.
Although “snitches” don’t exactly make the headlines,
they are heavily utilized in the U.S. criminal justice system. From dark
street corners, to interrogations, to state and federal prisons –
thousands of deals are negotiated with confidential informants every year.
Unbeknownst to a many everyday citizens, trading information for punishment
has become big business, but it’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes,
innocent people are the ones to pay the price and sometimes the informants
themselves become victims. Other times, confidential informants (CIs)
give very useful information that ultimately “cracks” a case.
Confidential Informants Remain Valuable
Despite the known risks of using CIs, they remain a valuable tool for law
enforcement. Ask any seasoned detective or prosecutor, and they’ll
agree that many cases would go cold and unsolved if it weren’t for
the help of CIs.
Sometimes, the government enters into a written agreement with a CI where
the government agrees to keep the CI’s identity a secret. When such
an agreement is made, the CI knows from the beginning of the investigation
that their identity will be protected – that it will remain confidential.
If the CI breaks the “rules of conduct,” their identity can
In some cases, the state agrees to dismiss charges against him or her in
order to protect their identity. Ultimately, law enforcement has to weigh
the pros and cons of being lenient with a CI in exchange for information
that can help crack bigger cases or lead to bigger prosecutions.
Looking for an Orange County
criminal defense attorney?
Contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. to schedule a
free case evaluation.