Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu

Confidential Informants: How to Be One, and What to Do If One Testifies Against You


Confidential informants add exciting twists to movies about crime and criminal investigations; depending on whether the story is told from the point of view of a defendant or a prosecutor, informants are either low down, rotten snitches or underdog heroes.  Police often rely on tips from confidential informants in drug trafficking investigations, and sometimes they even instruct the informants to ask their former co-conspirators directly about pending drug deals.  Evidence gathered by confidential informants is so valuable to drug crime investigations that prosecutors often offer “get out of jail free” plea deals to defendants facing drug charges, in order to entice them to take on the role of informant.  On the other hand, informant-provided evidence is not always enough to erase all reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt, especially if the evidence was collected in violation of the defendant’s rights.  Here, our Miami drug crimes defense lawyer explains how confidential informants remove criminal liability from themselves and collect evidence against other people.

Recordings by Confidential Informants Lead to Drug Trafficking Arrest in Stuart

Confidential informants played a pivotal role in the biggest drug bust in the history of Martin County.  In keeping with the confidentiality associated with confidential informants, news sources did not indicate how the informants became involved with the case.  Instead, the story begins in medias res, with a confidential informant wearing a recording device and receiving a phone call notifying him that three men would be driving to Florida from the Bronx with a shipment of fentanyl pills pressed to look like prescription pills of oxycodone.

The informant agreed to meet the New Yorkers in the parking lot of a Walmart on Federal Highway in Stuart.  The informant gave the men $38,000, and they handed over a stash of 10,000 pills weighing a total of 2.5 pounds and with a street value of $300,000.  As soon as the drugs exchanged hands, police arrived on the scene.  They arrested Jeffry Ezequiel Gonzalez-Ortiz, Carlos Almonte-Melo, and Yelson Alvarez-Ortiz, who, as of December 28, were being held in Martin County jail, each with a $200,000 bond.  If any of the defendants is convicted, he can face 25 years in prison.

How Does Someone Become a Confidential Informant?

It is illegal for police to arrest someone on suspicion of a crime without probable cause, but before they can establish probable cause, police must often do a lot of investigating.  An anonymous tip is often not enough to persuade a judge to issue a warrant to search a defendant’s property or make an arrest.  Criminal defense attorneys often advertise that, if you are being accused of serious drug offenses such as drug delivery or drug possession with intent to deliver, it is often possible to get your charges reduced to simple possession.

What they don’t tell you is that, in order to get such a sweet deal, you may need to provide information to the police by providing information about other people involved in the manufacture, transport, and sale of the drugs.  One of the riskiest ways to do this is by being a confidential informant and discussing ongoing drug crimes with your co-defendants while wearing a wire.  Prosecutors may offer defendants vastly reduced charges or sentences that do not include incarceration in exchange for their agreement to act as confidential informants; in some cases, they even offer the informants immunity from prosecution.

How Reliable Is Confidential Informants’ Testimony?

Once prosecutors hear conversations recorded by confidential informants, they might giddily think that they have caught a defendant red-handed, but you still have a chance to establish reasonable doubt.  The prosecution must let you see and hear all evidence that they plan to present to the jury before your trial, so that you have a chance to think of defenses that address it.  It may be possible to argue that the conversations the informant recorded do not prove that you committed the crime.  For example, you may have said on the recording that you would meet the informant at Walmart, but you might not have said that you would be meeting there to buy drugs.  In some cases, you may even be able to argue that the informant recordings were illegally obtained and that there was no legally valid reason for the informant to record conversations with you.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you establish reasonable doubt if prosecutors present informant-obtained evidence against you.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.



Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

© 2018 - 2024 Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC, Attorneys at Law. All rights reserved.
This law firm website and legal marketing are managed by MileMark Media.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.