Can Milwaukee police use confidential informants?

Confidential informants and criminal investigations

Encountering confidential informants can be a frustrating experience.  Sometimes they’re friends or family members who are looking to selfishly work their way out of charges.  In other cases, local police pay confidential informants amounts of money to provide information to police.  In nearly every situation, confidential informants work for some benefit to themselves.

At Van Severen Law Office, S.C. we’ve regularly encountered confidential informants providing information to the police and district attorney.  We’ve fought against those confidential informants using various pre-trial motions and have confronted them at trial.  Not surprisingly, sometimes CIs soften up a bit when they’re facing the defendant in front of a jury.

Our criminal defense law firm is 100% dedicated to criminal defense.  It’s the only area of law we practice because it allows us to keep on top of the constant developments in criminal law.  We believe that this dedicated focus allows us to provide better results to our clients.  Contact us at (414) 270-020 and let’s talk about your charges and how we can help.

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Can police use informants?

Police can use confidential informants, and have been using them for decades.  The law ebbs and flows regarding disclosure of the identity of confidential informants, but that’s really the only issue we regularly encounter in the law.

A confidential informant is a secret source who, through a contact law enforcement officer, supplies information on criminal activity to some law enforcement agency.  In a passive sense, confidential informants are sometimes individuals who observe a crime happen, but would like to remain confidential while still cooperating with police.  Those situations certainly frequently occur, but they’re not the focus of this blog post.  Instead, we’re focused on informants who develop a relationship with police and work with them to uncover additional alleged crimes the defendant commits.

Confidential informant watches through wall
Milwaukee police frequently use confidential informants.  Federal law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, also frequently use informants during their investigations.

How do confidential informants gather evidence against me?

Confidential informants work in a variety of ways.  Sometimes police aren’t looking for a whole lot of information, but instead just a witness who has observed the suspect engaged in some kind of legal activity.  That witness can be used to obtain a search warrant against the suspect or locate other witnesses and possible informants the police can use.

On the more proactive end of investigation, CIs go out and try to gather evidence against the defendant.  These are the kind of suspects who typically have some kind of personal motivation to work against you.  Whether they’re trying to “work off” their own charges or they’re simply after a little bit of money, there’s usually some kind of credibility issue involved that we may be able to attack in the future.

Police informants use a variety of tools against you.  We’ve frequently encountered CIs using devices with audio and video recording capabilities that appear to be something entirely different.  For example, local and federal police in southeastern Wisconsin use key fob devices to record drug deals.  The CI typically points the device at the suspect and captures both still images and videos of him or her.  Finally, police also frequently use traditional audio recording devices during investigations.  The police would like for that CI to record your audio and use the fob to take your picture while conducting an illegal activity.

What’s the history of confidential informants?

In 1961, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover instructed all Special Agents in Charge (SACs) to “develop particularly qualified, live sources within the upper echelon of the organized hoodlum element who will be capable of furnishing the quality information” needed to attack organized crime.  The FBI replaced the program in 1978 with the Criminal Informant Program, broadening its focus “to develop a cadre of informants who can assist the FBI’s investigation of federal crimes and criminal enterprises.”  Informants are known to contribute to law enforcement’s success investigating organized crime, public corruption, drug trade, counterterrorism, and other activities.

Local police have developed informant programs as the federal side of things developed.

Contact the criminal defense lawyers at Van Severen Law, S.C.

Being the subject of a police investigation is never fun.  It’s even less fun when the police employ confidential informants to work against you.  Whether the confidential informant was a friend, a brother, or even a random person can be incredibly frustrating.  This practice happens frequently in Milwaukee police investigations and throughout Wisconsin.  Obviously it happens more in cases involving drugs or firearms.

At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., our criminal defense attorneys have had the opportunity to stare down confidential informants.  We’ve done this at both pre-trial motion hearings and at trial.  We certainly recognize the issues involved with these cases, and we’re prepared to help you.   Remember, just because the government claims to have a witness working against you, there’s still potentially hope.  Let’s discuss that hope at a free consultation – contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202.

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