How can I be charged with delivery of drugs when the only witness was a confidential informant?
Being Charged with Delivery of Drugs
While it may not seem fair or appropriate, criminal charges can be based upon the testimony of another person. Many cases are “he said, she said” or “he said, he said” types of cases. Also, most drug delivery cases are not based solely upon the testimony of confidential informants. Many drug delivery cases in Centre County are the products of “controlled buys” of drugs from drug delivery targets. A controlled buy of drugs is a purchase of drugs by an undercover police officer or confidential informant at the direction and supervision of the police. Basically, a confidential informant tells the police about a person that is suspected of selling drugs, and the confidential informant then is given permission by the police to schedule the purchase and delivery of drugs. The weakest part of a case that stems from a controlled buy of drugs is the testimony of a confidential informant as the informant is almost always cooperating with the police or district attorney in order to obtain favorable treatment. In many situations, the confidential informant has pending drug delivery charges against him or her and are therefore cooperating with the goal of receiving lenient treatment from the district attorney on his or her charges. At any hearing in which the confidential informant testifies, an aggressive criminal defense attorney will challenge the informant’s credibility by questioning the informant about his or her own pending charges and desire to do almost whatever it takes to get someone else into trouble so that the informant gets a better deal from the district attorney.
The police and district attorney know that the weakest part of their case is the confidential informant, so the police try to corroborate as much of the confidential informant’s testimony as possible. For example, the confidential informant will often contact the drug delivery target via text messages or cell phone calls. Calls between the confidential informant and the drug delivery target can be confirmed via photos of the call log on the informant’s phone. Also, in some situations, the police will conduct consensual recordings of phone calls, meaning they will record calls between the informant and the drug delivery target. If text messages are sent, the police often take photographs of the of text messages so that there is no dispute about what was discussed and when. In order to link the drug delivery target to the cell phone number, police use an internet website to discover the owner of the phone number as listed on the cell phone plan. The police also check other directories, such as the Penn State student directory online, to see if the cell phone number is linked to the drug delivery target.
When it comes to the actual transaction or hand-to-hand delivery of drugs, the police try to have it occur outside so the police can actually observe the transaction occur. If the drug delivery target drove a car, the police take photographs of the target, check the registration on the vehicle, and often follow the vehicle to see the residence where it stops. If the delivery occurs inside, the informant is under police surveillance from the police station, to the target’s location, and the police only lose surveillance for the short period of time that the informant is in the residence to purchase the drugs. When the informant leaves the target’s residence, police surveillance resumes. In some more recent Centre County cases, the informants are wearing cameras and recording devices into the target’s residence.
In many Centre County drug delivery cases, the testimony of the confidential informant is a critical part of the district attorney’s case. Whether it is fair or not, the case can move forward to a trial, and a person can be convicted of drug delivery based upon the testimony of a confidential informant. While an informant’s testimony alone is sufficient, most police investigations have a substantial amount of evidence that corroborates and supports the testimony of the informant. The more corroborating evidence that the police have, the less the case is reliant upon the testimony of the confidential informant, and stronger the case for the prosecution.