You have a drug problem. To support your habit, maybe you deal a little to your friends — or maybe you carried a few packages between your dealer and someone else. Whatever happened, you got caught.

Naturally, you’re terrified — but the police officer has just made you an offer: If you’ll do a few drug buys for them and take on the mantle of a “confidential informant,” you could improve your position.

Is this a good idea? Maybe. But, here’s what you need to consider before you take the deal:

  1. The prosecutor, not the police, determines the charges against you. A police detective can promise you probation or that your charges will be dropped altogether but they can’t actually deliver. If you don’t have a negotiated agreement in writing, you don’t really have a deal.
  2. Becoming an informant is a risk that you may not need to take. There’s no question that becoming an informant and acting on behalf of the police entails some risk. If your former friends or dealers find out, you could be targeted for retaliation. If you’re a first-time offender facing a relatively low charge, you may be eligible for probation without putting yourself in such danger.
  3. You could find yourself trapped in circumstances beyond your control. The oversight on the use of informants can be thin. Once you become a police informant, it’s difficult to change your mind and explore other options. You can be stuck in the situation until the police decide that you’ve “done enough” to earn your way out.
  4. Your case could take a lot longer to resolve. As an informant, you may be involved in the legal system for a while as a witness. That could impair your ability to move forward.

Depending on your circumstances, you may not want to dismiss the idea of being a police informant in a drug case outright — but you probably shouldn’t accept it without some experienced legal guidance, either.

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