There are two types of police informants. The first type is private citizens who pass along the information to the police. The second type of informant is somebody who’s actually working for the police or at the direction of the police to find and generate information on a regular basis. These are often called narcs or snitches. The police refer to the second group as a confidential informant.
The police use information that they’ve gathered from informants to conduct searches of homes, cars, businesses, bank accounts, and computers. The problem is that a lot of confidential informants are really not reliable at all. A lot of them are junkies, career criminals, and people working off their own cases by cooperating with the police.
Often, these informants will tell the police whatever they want to hear and often pass along very misleading information. In some cases, the police outright lie about their informants. They sometimes go to the judge to get a search warrant and may mislead the judge that they have a confidential informant. The judge will sign the warrant even when there is really no informant at all.
In such a situation, the defense can make a motion to compel disclosure of the identity of the confidential informant. To prevail on this motion, the defense team has to show the judge that the informant is a material witness on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. They also have to demonstrate that non-disclosure would potentially deprive the accused person of a fair trial.
If the motion succeeds, the judge will ultimately order for the informant’s identity to be disclosed by the prosecution.
At this point, the prosecution would most likely retreat because the police don’t want to burn their informant, and a lot of times, they don’t even have an informant.
If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, contact Mark Shayani of Pacific Attorney Group. He can provide a free consultation in office or by phone and is available to answer any question you may have.