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If you’re wondering how to beat a confidential informant at trial, you probably have serious charges against you, and the evidence from a CI is most likely damning. Unfortunately, beating a confidential informant presents a particular set of challenges that are not always readily overcome.
The crux revolves around the “confidential” part of the confidential informant. As with most things in the legal world, knowing how to beat a CI depends on your case.
Protecting the CI’s Identity May Make it Challenging to Beat an Informant
Police and prosecutors generally want to keep the identity of their CI a secret. Revealing the CI’s identity puts the informant and sometimes their family in great danger due to their role. There might be several unhappy criminals and their associates or family members looking to exact revenge or stop them from testifying in court. Exposing the confidential informant’s identity would spell the end of the government’s ability to use that informant again in the future. Confidentiality is what makes the informant valuable.
A confidential informant can be used to facilitate multiple deals and inform on various situations if no one knows they’re doing it. However, an informant who’s been burnt obviously won’t be trusted in their typical circles. Therefore, they won’t be able to provide any information.
There’s another reason police may want to keep the identity of their informant a secret: they don’t have one. Saying they have a CI may be a cover for ill-gotten evidence and information. If the said information was procured outside of standard procedure (illegal or questionable means), they might use the CI excuse. By declaring a CI provided the intel, the police may try to get away with introducing the information to the case without explanation. Additionally, using a CI may be an excuse to have probable cause for a search, raid, or arrest when there isn’t another probable cause. Fabricating a confidential informant can lead to dire consequences for the objects of police raids if things go awry. It can also be risky for the prosecution if they must give the CI’s identity to the defense later.
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Beating a Confidential Informant Before a Trial
Generally, informants may enjoy more protection from being identified or forced to testify in court than other laypeople. In a court case, the prosecution must disclose any evidence and witnesses they have against the defense during a discovery process. The prosecution is not required to reveal CIs in discovery unless knowing their identity is detrimental to the defendant’s case. The information may prove to relate to exculpatory evidence. Exculpatory evidence is evidence that could clear the defendant of guilt.
If the confidential informant’s identity is essential to the defendant’s case, your attorney can file a motion to compel disclosure of the CI’s name. If the judge grants the motion to compel disclosure, the prosecution has some tough choices to make:
- Disclose the CI and risk the safety of their informant, lose their access to information, and discourage others from helping police in the future, or
- Keep the informant’s identity a secret, put the evidence aside, and rely on other evidence/witnesses/information to win the case if they have other evidence.
If they don’t want to burn their CI or if they don’t have one, they won’t disclose the identity, and the case will be dismissed. In any case, the outcome will most likely benefit you as the defendant.
Beating an Informant If They Testify at Trial
If the confidential informant is disclosed and proceeds to testify at trial, the way to beat them would be to make them appear unreliable. You impeach them on the stand, which discredits the evidence, information, and testimony they give. Criminal defense attorneys have a host of tools to do this. They can:
- Make the CI contradict themself on the stand
- If they have a history as a CI, call into question their history as a CI that has informed on lots of different cases for the prosecution
- Demonstrate any past instances of false or invalidated evidence or information they have provided.
- Highlight information that would indicate their dishonesty or bias.
- Expose any deals they have had with the prosecution to work off their charges in exchange for information
- Play up the fact that they are being paid to inform against the defendant
- Make them admit to wanting to avoid any negative consequences for themself or loved ones that would have occurred if they failed to cooperate
A skilled defense attorney in Pennsylvania will know how to maneuver in the courtroom and lead a witness to provide information that supports the defense’s theory of the case.
Let the Law Offices of MJ Snyder Help You Defend Your Future
If you’re worried about how to beat a confidential informant, let the Law Offices of MJ Snyder represent you. A Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer at our firm will work tirelessly to protect your rights and your freedom the way we have for other clients.
Contact us immediately for a free consultation where we can discuss the details of your case and how we can help.