How reliable are confidential informants?

On Behalf of | Dec 30, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Police officers and prosecutors will try just about anything that the law permits them to do charging individuals with crimes and convicting them in criminal court. In some situations, Michigan police departments and prosecutors rely on confidential informants.

Confidential informants are usually people already involved in criminal activity who may have a history of substance abuse or violence. These individuals may be inmates in a facility where someone stays after their arrest or be out on the streets, possibly involved in the drug trade or other criminal activity.

Prosecutors and law enforcement agencies may give these individuals more lenient sentences or other benefits for their assistance in prosecuting people. Unfortunately, despite their wide use, there is mounting evidence that shows that confidential informants often don’t tell the truth.

What the research shows

Confidential informants almost always have a motive to find compelling information about someone or to help the state charge or convict someone. They may exaggerate or misrepresent the situation so that the information they provide to police officers or prosecutors seems valuable.

They may trick or coerce someone into breaking the law, only to then report them to authorities. In some cases, they might fabricate information entirely. A review of the use of confidential informants shows that many cases involving confidential informants may result in unfair convictions and successful appeals later.

Confidential informants in Michigan have proved problematic

In 2020, Michigan made the national news when a confidential informant who had worked with federal authorities and local police wound up implicated in a crime spree that involved six other people dying.

The informant allegedly killed six people in crimes related to drugs or money within six weeks and then killed himself while fleeing from the police. His status as a confidential informant played a role in a federal judge releasing him from state custody, which eventually resulted in him committing those horrific crimes.

When prosecutors only have a confidential informant and other circumstantial evidence to tie you to criminal allegations, you may be in a position to mount an aggressive defense strategy and prevent a criminal conviction. Learning more about your options when defending against criminal charges in Michigan can help you use the best strategy possible given the case against you and the accusations you face.

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