People charged with drug crimes are often coerced by police to act as a Confidential Informant (CI). The police use CIs to arrange drug buys with the purpose of jamming up other suspected drug dealers. Acting as a CI for the police is bad for your case and extremely unsafe for you.
1. The police do not have the authority to help you.
When the police approach you to become a confidential informant, they make it sound like t
hey have the power to make all your own legal problems disappear. They will assure you that your own lawyer will “make it messy by wanting stuff on paper.” In actuality, the decision whether you are charged with a crime or your probation is revoked is entirely prosecutor's – not the police. If the officer tells you that he will put in a “good word” with the prosecutor or judge on your behalf, don't believe it. It is unlikely that he will. You are better off with a lawyer working directly with the prosecutor on your behalf. He or she will put the good words in where necessary.
2. Once you become a confidential informant, the police own you.
When you become a confidential informant, you say goodbye to your identity. Many of your freedoms and most of your constitutional rights have now been compromised. You are issued a CI number to hide your identity. You know who else the police identify by number instead of name? Prisoners. And for all intents and purposes, thats what you'll be. You will have a cell phone and a number of an officer that you will call daily. If he calls you, you must call him back immediately. You are no longer free from unreasonable searches and seizures which means that, if that officer at any point suspects something is amiss, he will find you, arrest you, search you, and interrogate you.
3. Successfully completing a CI task is extremely difficult.
The things that officers ask you to do as a CI are not easy to pull off. Arranging complicated drug buys with dangerous, unreliable people is a hard day's work. Make no mistake, you do not get points for trying – either your work directly resulted in a bust that resulted in the arrest and charges of the person they want, or it didn't. If, for whatever reason, it didn't, then you have not fulfilled your obligation as a confidential informant. You will receive no benefit even if the lack of charges is not your fault.
4. It is a violation of your probation.
Drug cases have serious consequences. These consequences many times result in people on probation with huge prison sentences hanging over them. Police use the threat of that “back up” sentence to convince you to cooperate with them as a confidential informant. They convince you that you can avoid the probation violation by working with them. However, acting as a CI is just another violation of your probation in and of itself. Probationers cannot participate in any criminal activity while on probation and the Missouri Dept. of Probation and Parole considers the work done as a CI to be criminal activity.
5. Setting up drug buys with drug dealers is dangerous.
It's incredibly dangerous. Plain and simple. Many times as a confidential informant you will be asked to enter a house or vehicle with armed people inside. If you survive the bust itself, these people can still find out who you are later through the discovery process in court. You run the risk of the friends and families of those you have set up seeking future retribution. Do not put yourself in a position where you are looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life.
If you find yourself in a legal situation where if feels like you have no other choice but to work for the police as a confidential informant, I strongly urge you to reconsider. Always seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney – he or she will help you navigate your way through the justice system without putting yourself or your family at risk.