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Use of 'Snitches' in Police Investigations

Confidential informants (CIs), otherwise known as “snitches” give law enforcement information in exchange for avoiding punishment or criminal liability. Law enforcement will use snitches to obtain information in criminal investigations and to secure warrants, while prosecutors will use criminal defendants as “sources” and in exchange for snitching, they’ll drop charges or serve up an appealing plea bargain.

Although “snitches” don’t grace the headlines, they’re common 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, especially when it comes to drug-related crimes.


Despite the known risks of using snitches, 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 their help.

Sometimes, the government enters into a written agreement with a CI or snitch where the government agrees to keep his or her 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 be compromised.

Although snitches provide information to the government regularly, they are a problematic class of defendants or witnesses because they are criminals who trade information with the cops and in exchange, they’re virtually exempt from, or above the law, especially when they don’t pay for their crimes.

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Ultimately, law enforcement has to weigh the pros and cons of being lenient with a snitch 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.