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If you’ve been accused of a crime, it’s tempting to do whatever you can to make the charges go away, especially in drug possession cases. With the severe federal sentences drug crimes carry, you may feel like you have no chance at escaping serious punishment. Law enforcement knows this, which is why they sometimes offer you an out: becoming a federal criminal informant.
Criminal informants, also called confidential informants or CIs, are people who help law enforcement make busts against other people accused of breaking the law. Generally, this information is given in exchange for leniency in cases pending against the informant—in particular, minor drug cases. This “help” comes in the form of substantial assistance towards making an arrest. This generally means that CI’s don’t just feed police information about criminal activity from the safety of the station. They take an active role in collecting evidence against other suspects through controlled buys or while wearing a wire.
Criminal informants agree to a certain number of controlled buys or agree to contribute to a certain number of arrests before charges can be dropped (or lessened). Rarely do CIs only contribute to a single arrest. These CIs can work with law enforcement for weeks, months, or even years before fulfilling their deals.
If you are arrested for a relatively minor drug crime, you may be offered the chance to become a federal criminal informant in exchange for probation, lesser charges, or dropped charges. This is a common practice, especially if you are a first time offender. You may be offered the chance to work as a confidential informant in a formal plea deal after an arrest or even simply during unofficial questioning.
Many people choose to become a CI, especially when facing the harsh sentences that accompany criminal charges. It can be a way to keep your record clean and get a second chance, so you should always seriously consider any CI deals offered by law enforcement. In many cases, it may be worth the risks—and in other cases it may not be. Your defense lawyer should be able to advise you on the advantages and disadvantages of your choices.
There are, of course, many benefits of becoming a confidential informant. You have a chance to keep a clean record entirely or at least to face lesser charges than originally put against you. You gain the trust of law enforcement, and may even be able to help take down large drug operations. In addition, your identity should usually be protected, allowing your involvement in the arrests to go unknown.
Of course, there are serious potential downsides to becoming a confidential informant, as well. While your identity should be protected, sometimes it is leaked during an investigation or during a trial. You may even be forced to testify against a powerful criminal. This could put you in real danger of retaliation. The danger isn’t limited to you actions after a controlled buy either. During the course of your work as a federal criminal informant, you will be put in dangerous situations, and law enforcement cannot 100 percent guarantee your safety.
It’s important to also consider that you may not get the benefits of being a criminal informant if you do not fully fulfill the terms of your agreement with police. You may be required to stay drug-free or contribute to a certain number of arrests. If you don’t, your deal will be off the table, making the risks you took for nothing. Because of these factors, you should discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney in order to know whether or not becoming a CI is really worth it in your unique case.
In general, you should never agree to become a CI without first discussing a potential deal with your defense lawyer. That’s because these deals are incredibly complex legal agreements. If you don’t know exactly what you have gotten yourself into, you could find yourself quickly in over your head. Your Columbus criminal defense attorney can help you understand the specifics being proposed and help you decide if it is in your best interest. They also will be able to protect you throughout the process, ensuring that police don’t take unnecessary risks and that they live up to their end of the agreement.
You have a right to an attorney during all your conversations with law enforcement, so take advantage of it. Call the Columbus criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck, and Associates today at for a free consultation on your case. Find out how we may be able to help you fight federal charges and decide whether or not becoming a federal criminal informant may be the right choice for you.
If you have been charged with a federal crime, you’re probably wondering what your options are. The Ohio federal criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have years of experience handling these types of cases and winning optimal outcomes for our clients. Call Ohio federal crime lawyer Chase Mallory today for a free consultation. To contact him or another criminal defense attorney, call us at or email us via firstname.lastname@example.org.