Confidential Informants: I’ve Been Busted for Drugs. Do I Work for the Police?

By: James Davis

Rachel Hoffman, a 23-year old graduate of Florida State University, after being caught with four ecstasy pills and approximately 6 ounces of marijuana, agreed to act as a confidential informant in a drug sting operation that went sour.  The Tallahassee police asked her to carry a recording device in her purse during a deal where she was supposed to buy 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine, and a handgun.  After her police handlers lost track of her, she was shot with the gun that she had been sent to buy.

Sometimes becoming a police informant is one of the only ways to try to avoid the very high mandatory minimum sentences that result from being convicted of minor drug crimes.  According to a recent news article, a police informant who successfully fulfilled his snitching quota was originally facing a sentence of 15 years from convictions for drug trafficking, but had his sentence reduced down to 18 months, and is now free.  However, an individual who he snitched on, John Horner, failed to meet his quota of helping prosecutors put together cases against five other people on drug-trafficking charges carrying 25-year minimum terms, and as a result Mr. Horner was sentenced to 25 years in October last year and is now serving his sentence in Liberty Correction Institution.

Individuals who cooperate with the police experience a risk of having their identifying information published on a website which contains an online database of government informants and agents.  This can be dangerous, and as was the case with Rachel Hoffman, your life could be placed at risk through cooperating with the detectives who want you to participate in a controlled buy from your dealer.  They may want you to wear a wire, and may expect you to testify.

Some officers may reveal your status as a confidential informant to non-law enforcement individuals in the area where you are required to operate.  According to papers recently filed in a Federal Court in Tampa, this is what happened to Maxie Eddins, who was outed by Armando R. Looney of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.  After Officer Looney revealed to everyone in Eddins’ neighborhood that he was a snitch, Eddins filed a complaint against Officer Looney.  After Officer Looney was interviewed by internal affairs in the course of investigating Eddins’ complaint, Looney retaliated against Eddins by causing individuals to attack Eddins.  These individuals hurt Eddins badly and poured gasoline and other flammable liquids all over Eddins.  The presiding Federal Judge has refused to dismiss the complaint against Officer Looney’s superiors, who allegedly willfully failed to supervise, train and/or control Looney.

Given the serious risks, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before agreeing to function as a confidential informant.  After Rachel Hoffman died, the Florida Senate passed Rachel’s law, Section 914.28 of the Florida Statutes, which in section (3)(c) requires law enforcement agencies which use confidential informants to provide you with an opportunity to consult with legal counsel upon request before you perform any activities as a confidential informant.  The Law Office of James Davis, P.A. is prepared to assist you to make an informed decision concerning whether to cooperate with a police investigation.  If you do decide to cooperate, contacting a lawyer before striking a deal can help you to negotiate more favorable terms and also insure that the prosecution lives up to its end of the bargain.

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