Signer Beware When Signing Up to Be An Informant

I don’t have to worry, the cop said that if I cooperated and helped them as an informant that the cop would dismiss the charges…so why do I need a lawyer?

So the law enforcement officer who arrested you, and who is sworn to uphold the law, is going to ‘dismiss’ the charges that he just filed against you on an official New Jersey criminal complaint… Yeah, OK, and the Emperor really was wearing something, right? Psst, hey pal…since you’re that gullible, I got a nice bridge for sale and you would look great collecting all those tolls…

There is a saying, that if something sounds to good to be true, it’s probably not true. The reality is that once a criminal complaint has been issued, the only person who can agree to dismiss it is the prosecutor. The cops cannot ‘cut a deal’ with a criminal defendant without the direct agreement of a prosecutor. The cops can say that they will ‘dismiss’ to try to get you to cooperate, but once you are charged with a criminal offense in NJ the cops cannot ‘bind the hands’ of the prosecutor and you are still facing the full potential sentencing ramifications of those charges, even if you did cooperate with the cop as an informant. If you doubt what I am saying, try to get a cop to write out the agreement to dismiss the charges on departmental letterhead, and then have him sign it and give you the original letter. You have a better chance of seeing the sun rise in the West.

So let’s assume that you have some great information that would influence a prosecutor to reduce the charges or the sentence. How do you get an agreement to ‘help yourself’? The first thing you need is…you guessed it, a criminal defense lawyer. This is because anything you say can be used against you. What your lawyer says cannot be used against you. Your lawyer talks to the prosecutor about the fact that the cop wants to interview you and sign you up to become an informant. The prosecutor talks to the cop and gets an idea about what you are charged with at this point, and what the cop thinks you may be able to provide in the way of ‘assistance’ (such as information, consensual recorded conversations, introductions, informant buys, etc.) to the police investigation. Once the prosecutor understands the strength of the case against you, and what the value of your cooperation is to law enforcement, the prosecutor and your lawyer will arrange a ‘proffer’ session where it is agreed that you will divulge everything you know about the criminal activity the cops want you to assist them with investigating.

Once the information has been verified, your lawyer and the prosecutor sign a cooperation agreement and you get signed up as an informant (a C.I.). So long as you perform the activities you agreed to do, this type of arrangement does bind the hands of the prosecutor. Want a lower reduction? it is not uncommon for informants to ‘work-off’ a degree of a crime or a part of the sentence at a time, and then agree to do more cooperation for additional reductions of charge or sentence. Sometimes a plea is entered into before the Court after the first successful cooperation and then the sentencing date is adjourned while you work-off more ‘assistance’.

Is this time-consuming? Yes. Does it guarantee that you get credit for the information or cooperation? Yes. Or, maybe you would rather just chance it, that the cop will be willing and/or able to get the prosecutor to drop the crime degree, informantor the length of the prison sentence you are most certainly facing…if so, please check out this picture of the bridge I want to sell you…and give me a call when you have the money (cash only, in small denomination bills, with non-sequential serial numbers) to pay for it.

My name is Howard Bailey, and I’m a NJ criminal defense lawyer, with more than 40 years of experience in the field of criminal law. My law practice, The Law Office of Howard W. Bailey, LLC, is located in Newark NJ and I devote all of my practice to defending clients charged with criminal offenses in the State and Municipal Courts of New Jersey. This blogspot is intended to address the serious issues that can impact the outcome of a criminal case, and at the same time inject a little humor to provide some relief from the seriousness of the problems facing those charged with criminal offenses. If you are under investigation or have been charged with a criminal offense in NJ, please contact me by phone at 973-982-1200