Law professor Alexandra Natapoff is perhaps the nation’s number one authority on the law of “snitching,” which she defines as “when police or prosecutors offer lenience to criminal suspects in exchange for information or cooperation.” Now she has turned this expertise into a blog that I plan on following with interest – the “Snitching Blog.” According to the welcome page:
Snitching Blog is about a part of our criminal system that most people know little or nothing about: criminal informants, or snitches. At any given moment, thousands of informants are trying to work off their own criminal liability by giving information to the government. These informants may be in court, in prison, on the street, or in the workplace. Police and prosecutors often rely heavily on information obtained from snitches — especially in drug enforcement but also in white collar crime, organized crime, and terrorism investigations. In fact, it is impossible to fully understand the U.S. legal system without understanding snitching. Nevertheless, there is very little public information available about this important public policy. That’s where Snitching Blog comes in.
Snitching is an inevitable, if not sometimes distasteful, part of the practice of criminal law. If you practice criminal law long enough, either as a prosecutor or defense lawyer, you will have a case involving an informant. As I have previously said on this blog, there are dozens of ways to work out a criminal case, and helping yourself by helping the government is but one of them. It may be that becoming an informant may be the best route for you, or you may be the type of person that would rather die than to inform on someone else. Or you may be the target of a government informant, and you need a lawyer to expose them and minimize the effect on your case.
The tone of this new blog is geared towards the legal community, but if you are involved in a case that involves informants it should be required reading.