Confidential Informants in New Jersey
During a trial in New Jersey, it is not uncommon for the prosecutors to use what is known as a confidential informant, also referred to as a CI, to make the arrest and testify at trial. By definition, because a CI is “confidential”, the person cannot be identified or cross-examined by the defense attorney at trial, making the attorney's job more difficult in serving the defendant.
The CI may be used by the prosecutor in cases concerning a disorderly persons offense or an indictable crime, also known as a felony in other jurisdictions.
When a CI Can and Cannot be Used in New Jersey
New Jersey State law decides when the confidentiality of the witness may or may not be in effect. According to NJ Rule of Evidence 516 and New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 2A:84A-28, the witness can refuse to disclose the person who provided the information to a legal authority of New Jersey or the United States. If this occurs, the evidence is inadmissible unless it is found by the judge that the identity of the person providing the information has been disclosed, or the disclosure of the identity is imperative to the fair resolution of the case.
The idea behind this law is to protect the identity of an informant unless it is absolutely necessary that he or she be revealed. If, in order to ensure the fairness of the case, it is required that the CI's identity be disclosed, then the identity will be revealed in the following circumstances:
- If there is a bona fide allegation of entrapment
- If the anonymity had been destroyed at a prior time
- If false information has been provided by the CI
- If the CI was a participant in the crime in question
- If the CI is a material witness
The prosecution provides the privilege of confidentiality and it is not up to the CI as to what happens with his or her identity and disclosure of said identity. When the defense attorneys seek to have the identity of a CI revealed, they must do so in a timely manner or they may waive the opportunity for disclosure.
Misuse of Confidential Informants can Lead to a Mistrial, Plea Deal, or Reversal on Appeal
A 2010 case saw the conviction of a defendant reversed because of errors made with the identity of the CI who had provided the authorities with the tip regarding the alleged crime. In this case, the defense attorney did not request disclosure of the CI's identity because he didn't believe he had the grounds for it. When the prosecutor gave his opening statement, however, the name of the CI was revealed. By this action, it was suggested that the prosecutors didn't believe that the CI needed to be protected during the discovery phase of trial. Because of this, the failure to inform the defense of the CI's identity could have hindered their ability to provide an adequate defense for the accused. It could be viewed that the prosecution did this intentionally, making the trial unfair to the defendant.
Contact an Attorney at Villani & DeLuca for Help with a Case Involving a Confidential Informant
The use of a confidential informant is common in New Jersey and the attorneys at Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey have the knowledge and experience to avoid the non-disclosure of a witness and protect the defendant's rights. If there are potential attacks to be made to damage the prosecutor's case that has been bolstered by the presence of a CI, Villani & DeLuca will find it. The prosecutors may not want to risk the identity of their CI being revealed and will be more willing to discuss a plea agreement. If a mistake or calculated attempt to deprive the defendant of full disclosure is made, as in the 2010 case discussed above, the charges may be dropped or reversed.
If you or a loved one has been arrested and it is because of the use of a confidential witness in Toms River, Belmar or anywhere in Ocean County or Monmouth County New Jersey, Villani & DeLuca can help you. Call the law firm today to discuss your case and options.