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Why Do People Agree to Work As a Confidential Informant?

The reasons why people agree to work as an informant vary greatly from individual to individual, having done criminal defense work (and prosecution) over the years, I tend to see people motivated by the below reasons. Not all the below reasons are equally common, but let’s discuss each in turn.

Legal troubles: The most common reason someone agrees to work as an informant is that they have found themselves in some significant legal trouble. For example, if a person is caught with drugs themselves, they would agree to work as an informant in order to get the charge dismissed. However, most people wouldn’t typically work as an informant merely for the possession of drugs for personal use. The punishments just aren’t that serious. Usually people work as an informant if they are facing a serious prison sentence, for example for a charge of delivery of a controlled substance. It is possible for someone to work as an informant in exchange for something like an assault charge dismissed. However, crimes like that have specific, individual people as victims, and the police don’t typically agree to bargain such matters away out of respect for the victim. confidential informant

Financial gain: It is possible for a drug informant for monetary gain, but this is not very common. You do hear of some FBI informants on anti-terrorist cases making hundred of thousands of dollars, but informants in state court drug cases would be luck to make a couple of thousands. Most people just wouldn’t think it is worth the risk to their safety. Usually their motive is something different, and the money is just secondary.

Excitement: Believe it or not, there are some people who enjoy the excitement of working as an informant. Maybe they have seen too many movies about informants or secretly they have always wanted to be a vice cop, or maybe they just like to be in the center of things and enjoy the attention. But these are the informants that the police have to watch the closest. A lot of these excitement types are loose cannons and are liable to try to take down an entire drug enterprise single handedly if they are not monitored.

Civic duty: There are certain people who just genuinely want to help the police and volunteer to assist to try to curb the problems of drugs in their city. The problem is that if someone is not a drug user themselves, they don’t understand the trade well enough to pose as a buyer.

Revenge: In my practice of law it is sometimes apparent that part of the motive for a person to work as an informant is revenge against people they feel did them wrong when they were involved with drugs. Maybe the people were business competitors, or maybe ripped them off, or committed other crimes against them.

Learn more about confidential informants.