If you have been arrested or contacted by the police who are threatening you with serious drug charges, that is a very scary situation. Increasingly, police are using these threats to try to get people to cooperate with them in drug investigations.
Confidential Informants (or CI’s) have always been a tool used by police to acquire inside information about criminal activity. But informing for the police can be very dangerous, and the promises the police make in order to get an informant’s cooperation are not reliable or accurate.
At the Law Office of Russell J. Matson, P.C. we have had several concerning cases brought to our attention. Some police departments are making it a policy to bully suspects, with no prior criminal history, into cooperating as informants and even participating in controlled buys of narcotics.
We have received calls about several instances in Quincy and Ayer where officers have confronted drug arrest suspects an tried to get them to cooperate as a police informants in return for either reduced charges, or not filing any charges.
These people are not hardened criminals and were not into illicit drugs.
- One person was in his 30’s with a good job in IT happened to have received four pills of Adderall from a friend.
- Another person also in his 30’s, had only given a friend a small amount of marijuana.
The possession of marijuana isn’t even a crime under decriminalization in 2008, but the sale or distribution of marijuana is still a potential crime with the possibility of two and half years in jail. Therefore the police can threaten that charge, even when cases where it would be absurd.
Both individuals had no prior criminal history and had no drug connections outside of their small group of friends.
These regular people were faced with making some very hard decisions – do I rat on my friends for giving me a couple of pills of Adderall or a small bag of weed, or do I help police make a drug sting on serious drug dealers?
It is shocking and disturbing that the police are threatening people with prosecution and potential jail time, even though jail time is almost unheard of in first-time, simple possession cases. In response to this alarming practice, we would like to make certain points clear for those who find themselves in such a predicament.
How Confidential Will My Information Be?
One promise that is typical of officers is that your information will be kept completely confidential and the suspect will not have access to it. This is not true. The suspect, during the ensuing criminal case, is entitled under the Constitution to have access to any witnesses against him. Your expectation, nor an officer’s promise, will override a defendant’s Constitutional right.
This information will include your name, any statements you have made to police about the case, how you came to know this information, and potentially any other time you have informed to police. All of this information will likely be made available to the defense during the discovery process. Also, if a judge determines that your testimony is required at trial you will be subpoenaed to be a witness at the trial.
How do I Know If the Officer is Telling the Truth?
You can’t. Police officers have a wide range of tactics granted to them by the U.S. Supreme Court in order to conduct investigations, which includes flat out lying. Officers typically will only outline the maximum penalty for a charge, regardless if the maximum penalty is even likely to happen.
Also, it is important to remember that the police have a job to do, which does not always include being fair to you. Their concern is finding criminals and stopping crime, not making sure you are aware of all your rights.
Could Helping the Police Be Dangerous?
Absolutely! If the police suggest you help them with a controlled buy then you may literally be taking your life into your own hands.
Sadly, some of these stings go terribly wrong and confidential informants do get hurt. A likely term of probation you might serve as a result of a criminal possession case far outweighs the potential outcome of aiding the police in a controlled purchase of narcotics.
Confidential Drug Informant Dangers Make National News
A recent broadcast by CBS News on 60 Minutes revealed the considerable danger faced by anyone who submits to become an informant against an organized crime organization.
It also outlined how the police avoid telling the person they have a right to speak to an attorney. If the person is not under arrest, but is only being threatened with arrest, the police have no legal obligation to remind you of your right to remain silent, and your right to an attorney.
As always, you should seek to protect yourself, which leads to…
Should I Get an Attorney?
Yes, talk to an attorney right away. It’s that simple. Especially if no criminal charges have been brought yet, an attorney can talk to the police with you, or even for you, and protect you and your rights. Our firm has successfully interceeded in a number of criminal investigations and prevented our client from being charged with any crime at all.
And you can get an honest opinion about how much trouble you are really in. The worst case scenario that the police officer is threatening you with (jail time) may be completely unrealistic, but you wouldn’t know that yourself. If the actual threat you are facing in the criminal justice system is only probation or a minor penalty, it almost certainly is not worth the risks of informing.
Confidential informants are often not made overnight. There is often a prolonged discussion with police about agreeing to become an informant.
At any point you may get an attorney to help you and make sure that your rights are respected, and to make sure you are completely aware of what you may be agreeing to.
If you are being threatened by the police in Massachusetts, please call us for a consultation to find out if we can be of any assistance in defending you against a criminal drug investigation.