Our criminal defense law firm represents individuals charged with a different felony and misdemeanor crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These crimes range from the possession of illegal narcotics and drugs, guns, firearms, to violent felonies such as murder, manslaughter, robbery, and burglary. In some of these cases, the prosecution and police use confidential informants during an investigation to identify suspects and bring criminal charges. These informants are usually career criminals themselves who have made deals with the district attorney or prosecutors offices in exchange for information against an accused person.
How Police Use Informants in Criminal Investigations
Law enforcement often use confidential informants (CI) to obtain search warrants and/or begin investigations which result in the recovery of contraband which forms the basis for criminal charges. Remember that in Pennsylvania and New Jersey police are only permitted to search a house or residence with a search warrant in most situations unless they can show exigent circumstances which provide an exception to the search warrant requirement. Police use confidential informants to perform controlled drug or gun buys but also use them to obtain information as to a suspect’s movement patterns or simply the place where they store the contraband.
It’s important to understand that a court will grant a search warrant based on the totality of the circumstances and analysis which could include statements from a CI, police observations, and any other information to corroborate evidence that a crime is or was committed.
What is the prosecution required to reveal?
The prosecution isn’t’ required to reveal the identity of a CI to obtain a search warrant and a witness may testify as to why they began an investigation at trial based on what a confidential informant told them.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania both protect a CI’s identity as both jurisdictions both recognize their importance and value in criminal prosecutions. With that said, “informant privilege” is not an absolute and a court must balance the public interest in protecting a CI against an individual’s right to prepare his defense and fight criminal charges. This balancing test depends on the circumstances surrounding the case including the crime charged, the possible defenses, the possible significance of the CI’s testimony, and other relevant factors.
When must the prosecution reveal a CI?
The prosecution in both states may not keep a CI’s identity from the defense in the following situations:
- Where the informant’s identity is already known to those who might pose a risk of retaliation against the informant.
- Where the identity of the informant is relevant to the defense or essential to a fair determination of the case.
- Where the CI is a witness to an issue that is basic to the case.
- Where the informant actively participated in the crime (co-conspirator) for which the defendant is charged.
- Where entrapment is a plausible defense.
- Where disclosure is mandated by fundamental principles of fairness to the accused.
While the court may not require the prosecution to produce the identity of the informant, prosecutors and district attorneys are required to disclose any material evidence which effects the credibility of that CI. This evidence includes:
- Disclosure of the cooperation and plea agreements made with the CI
- Material false statements made by the witness in unrelated investigations
Again, the prosecution is not required to reveal the identity of the CI unless the defense, who bears the burden of proof on issue, shows the materiality of the informant’s identity or testimony. For more information on confidential informants in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, contact our criminal defense law firm.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in PA & NJ
For more information on hiring our criminal defense law firm in Pennsylvania or New Jersey to defend you if you are charged with a violent felony or misdemeanor contact our office.
Please click here to contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers. We offer free case reviews and serve the following areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Atlantic City, Camden, Cherry Hill, Chester, Conshohocken, Doylestown, Media, Norristown, Philadelphia, Pottstown, Salem, Upper Darby, Upper Merion, Upper Providence, Vineland & Woodbury areas.