Should I make a deal with the cops to snitch against a drug dealer after I was caught with drug paraphernalia?
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UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022
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Not without some thought. If they are offering a deal, make sure it is properly recorded; otherwise the prosecutor may not honor the deal. If you are using your connections to trap someone else, the police now have evidence that you may be involved in something bigger. See an attorney.
There is no simple answer to your question. There are both and legal and practical consequences and issues to consider.
Let’s start with the practical consequences. Outside of a law school classroom, practical consequences always have to be considered, because you are dealing with your life, not theory. Drug dealers are often not nice people; they frequently are willing to resort to violence, to either protect themselves or to avenge some perceived wrong done to them. They often have associates who will commit violence for them, even if they themselves are under scrutiny or are even locked up. While the police are very good about protecting their informants, they are not perfect—no one is. Therefore, you have to consider that doing this does expose you—and potentially your family (if any)—to some degree of risk.
Now, the legal consequences. Drug paraphernalia, without also finding drugs, is generally not a severe offense. The exact nature of the charge and its penalty varies from state to state. To use New Jersey as an example, possession of drug paraphernalia is only a “disorderly persons” offense, with a potential penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. Again, that penalty is “up to” those amounts, but could be considerably less—possible a small fine and probation. So, while you need to check what the law is in your state, you may not be looking at much in the way of potential penalties.
However, by agreeing to be an informant, you will be engaged (possibly) in buying drugs and/or could be revealing to the police details of other drug purchases or crimes you have committed. While the police should honor any agreement they make with you—IF it is in writing (never take a deal not in writing)—there are circumstances where they could refuse to honor the arrangement, such as if they believe you have not honored your end of the bargain. If that happens, you may have given the authorities ammunition to use against you.
Given all the above, do not enter into any deals without consulting with a criminal defense attorney. Let the lawyer weigh all the pros and cons as they relate to your specific circumstances and advise you as to what to do. If making a deal makes sense, let the lawyer negotiate it for you (to get the best deal possible) and also make sure it is properly documented (to make sure it is enforceable). In the meantime, say nothing. Remember, you have a Constitutional right to not incriminate yourself (the “right to remain silent” from police TV shows); that right is there for your protection, so take advantage of it.