TITLE OF BILL:
to amend the criminal procedure law, in relation to the regulation of
the use of informants
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
To introduce more transparency, uniformity and formality into law
enforcement's use of informants. To protect society from the
troubling side effects of this largely unregulated practice.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
Compiles annual statistics about law enforcement use of informants to
assist with judicial and legislative oversight. Provides defendants
and their attorneys with vital information about informants offering
testimony against them through full disclosure, reliability hearings
and depositions. Places limits on who can be turned into an informant.
This bill is designed to provide guidelines, and to allow for more
legislative, judicial and public scrutiny over the practice of using
informants to solve crimes to ensure that it is truly benefiting
society and creating safer neighborhoods for New Yorkers. It also
attempts to provide for more continuity in the circumstances
surrounding the creation and maintenance of informants. The bill does
not intend to eliminate the practice, rather it seeks to set
standards and achieve greater oversight of the entire process.
Informants provide information to government officials, police,
prosecutors, etc exchange for some sort of government benefit. It is
a very common and pervasive practice in today's law enforcement, that
largely goes unchecked, unregulated and without scrutiny.
Most often, informant use is particularly referring to someone who
provides information about another person's criminal behavior in
exchange for a government conferred benefit, such as avoidance of
prosecution or arrest, a reduction of charges, privileges while in
prison etc. Informing can be an enormous labor and time saving device
for both police and prosecutors that can be essential for prosecution
of certain types of cases.
However, legislative, judicial and public entities rarely have the
opportunity to review these negotiations. Informant agreements do not
require judicial approval to make sure they are in society's best,
interest, as plea agreements do. Instead, the practice relies almost
completely on police and prosecutorial discretion. The use of
informants also creates a system in which defendants are often
convicted largely on the testimony of what is essentially a 'paid'
informant. This testimony can be very difficult to contradict and
extremely persuasive to a jury.
There are no official statistics or numbers relating to how often
informants are used, where, or what crimes are being traded for what
information, or what kind of convictions result.
Moreover, there is absolutely no uniformity in informant practices.
The situation and the arrangements vary greatly. Police routinely
past, present and continuing crimes such as drug abuse and dealing, or
worse because they do not want to lose their informant.
The question then arises, does this result in a net gain or loss for
the community? Potentially, the informant system is contributing to
crime, in addition to fighting it. Moreover, it is fairly well known
that informants are sometimes selective in who they 'rat out,' basing
it on their own convenience rather than an individual's threat to
Despite the apparent advantages to the informant, they also incur
serious risks. The informant is deprived of many of the protections
and rights that our constitution was designed to include. When
someone agrees to be an informant in order to avoid an arrest, they
are essentially admitting guilt, often without the benefit of
defense counsel, Miranda warning, or written agreement. These
agreements can last years and offer no guarantee against eventual
arrest. During this time, the informant is constantly in peril.
Frequently, those who are discovered by their peers, to be informants
face dire consequences.
The management of informants needs to be made more uniform and formal
in order to protect everyone involved.
In conclusion, the practice of using informants can be detrimental to
the community as a whole. The fact that informants can commit certain
crimes with police permission gives the impression that criminality
and morality are relative. It promotes disloyalty and heightens
mistrust and anger between law enforcement and communities and within
the communities themselves.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
A.10096 of 2006
A.1124 of 2007-2008
2009: S.6341 (Duane) Died in Rules; A.3712 (Lentol) Died in Codes
2010: S.6341 (Duane) Died in Codes; A.3712 (Lentol) Died in Codes
None to the State.
September first next succeeding the date on which it shall have become a