SNITCHING = when police or prosecutors offer a deal to criminal suspects in exchange for information or cooperation
Criminal informants are a large and influential part of the American criminal process. Every year, the government makes thousands of deals with criminal suspects and defendants in exchange for information. That information affects every aspect of the system, from investigations to arrests, prosecutions, and sentencing. These deals can lead to important law enforcement victories. They may also result in leniency or even freedom for thousands of informants who have committed, and may continue to commit, serious crimes. Yet these influential decisions are largely informal, unregulated, and secretive.
This website provides educational information about all aspects of criminal informant use, law, and policy. It does a number of things:
Resources for lawyers, journalists, law enforcement, legislators, and members of the public. Under LITIGATION and LEGISLATION, there are links to sample court filings, state and federal legislation, government documents, reports, and other educational information. Nothing on this website should be interpreted as providing legal advice.
In the news
Blog posts about recent news stories, legislation and prominent cases involving informants. It also offers ongoing news analysis, legal commentary, and cultural insights into how snitching affects the criminal system and the lives of ordinary people. Additional books, articles, films, and resources are listed under RESOURCES & SCHOLARSHIP.
Education for families and youth
Have you or a family member been affected by criminal informant policies? Perhaps your child felt pressured into becoming an informant. Or maybe a relative was convicted based on unreliable snitch testimony. People from all walks of life have begun speaking out about these experiences—you can find their stories and other information under FAMILIES & YOUTH.
Like all complex public policies, criminal informant policies have costs as well as benefits. On the one hand, informants can be powerful investigative tools against organized crime, gangs, corporate fraud, and corrupt political practices. But many informants get away with serious crimes while they are cooperating with the government, while numerous innocent people have been convicted based on unreliable information from informants. Sometimes vulnerable people are unfairly pressured into becoming informants, with devastating consequences for them and their families. Finally, in some high-crime neighborhoods, criminal snitching can be so pervasive that it affects the safety of innocent residents. All too often, the public does not know how these policies work, or the full extent of these risks.
In 2009, I started SNITCHING.ORG as a blog and informational website. Since then, I have heard from many parents, lawyers, government officials, journalists and advocates that these resources have been helpful to them. My hope is to continue to promote better understanding of this important and problematic feature of our criminal process.