Articles Posted in Federal Crimes Attorney


What does it mean to provide cooperation, snitch or be an informant for the police?

Cooperation, using the little fish to get the big fish, is a major law enforcement tactic utilized everywhere and every day in the United States to gain information that would otherwise be next to impossible to obtain. This practice is also used extensively in the County of Macomb as a means to frustrate illegal drug activity. An offer to cooperate can arise during a criminal investigation or following an arrest or at any stage of a criminal case.

The concept of “cooperation” with the police (also called “snitching” or “acting as an informant”) occurs when the police utilize an individual to obtain information that would otherwise be difficult to discover.  Those asked to provide cooperation are usually in trouble with the law (busted for a drug crime) and are promised consideration in the legal system in return for providing assistance. Assistance is expected to be substantial and typically involves undercover work with narcotics agents or special units. The informant is rarely advised of his or her rights and other options. The informant may later be required to testify as a witness in subsequent court proceedings unless given protection as a confidential informant (CI).

The use of informants by the government has existed for more than a 1,000 years and remains widely used today by the government and the police to:

  • Make other busts, raids, seizures,
  • Support an arrest or search warrant
  • Bolster connections to infiltrate criminal enterprise(s),
  • Flush out targets or bigger fish, and,
  • Make progress in an investigation that is stuck in the mud.

Getting into Something that is Over Your Head

As we explain in this publication, cooperation or snitching, is a tool used by law enforcement officers to combat criminal activity and is most often associated with drug crimes.  Cooperation with the police is seldom ever considered because drug crimes, especially for first offenders, can be resolved with excellent results in most cases without working with the police. In addition, you need the advice of an attorney to explain your legal rights and all of the possible risks associated with cooperation, including the following:

  • Your safety is not assured
  • Your assistance may be declared insufficient by the police
  • Criminal charges may still be pursued against you
  • Cooperation ends when the police say it ends
  • Cooperation may require engaging in bigger drug deals than justified under the circumstances to get a deal in the legal system

Cooperation (snitching) is usually arranged while the accused person is caught red handed while engaged in illegal activity or in police custody for a criminal offense. Unfortunately, the police may use these scenarios as opportunities to take advantage of the situation by threatening prosecution or by persuading the party with incentives to cooperate that include: immediate release from jail and consideration to get all criminal charges dropped. Upon being released from jail, the unwary person will be instructed to contact an undercover officer for further instructions and discouraged from contacting a criminal defense lawyer. An individual that immediately chooses this route is placing his or her trust with the same law enforcement officers that will be testifying for the prosecution should criminal charges later be pursued.

What the Police Won’t Tell You about Cooperation Can Hurt You

The police are not required to give legal advice or explain every other possible option when attempting to engage an individual to become an informant.  The police will not tell you that your case can be worked out without cooperation or that an attorney can fight the case if it is based upon an illegal search. Here are just a few other legal rights that you forego when you agree to cooperate with the police:

In addition to the above, the police won’t tell you that most drug crimes are manageable in the court system with the services of a criminal defense lawyer. Scare tactics are not uncommon as a means to harvest an informant who is lead to believe that there is no hope in the legal system without providing cooperation.  In fact, the majority of offenders are not looking at jail, may be eligible to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor and have other excellent options to get the charge(s) dismissed pursuant to MCL 333.7411 or HYTA without providing any cooperation whatsoever to the police!

Cooperation in the Federal Court System

Federal criminal prosecutions are handled in a much more formal manner. In the Federal court system, the issue of cooperation is much different than what we see at the state court level. In the Federal system, special formalities and agreements exist. They involve both the District Attorney and at least one law enforcement agency; usually the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In the Federal arena, cooperation is prevalent and can be a factor to avoid a mandatory minimum sentence. The following language is contained within a Federal Plea and Cooperation Agreement:

“If the defendant commits any crimes or if any of the defendant’s statements or testimony prove to be knowingly false, misleading, or materially incomplete, or if the defendant otherwise violates this Plea and Cooperation Agreement in any way, the government will no longer be bound by its representations to the defendant concerning the limits on criminal prosecution and sentencing as set forth herein.”

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There is a pattern of “frequently asked questions” in the field of criminal law. This blog is dedicated to answer a couple of those questions. This blog is not intended to provide a one-size-fits-all dissertation on the covered subjects but only a short synopsis with some other references linked-in for further research if you are interested. It is important to understand that entire law books have been published regarding the Bill of Rights (4th, 5th and 6th Amendments) and other particular legal issues such as “possession“.

Remember: When the mistakes by the police add up, you may be entitled to a dismissal or suppression of evidence. Even minor mistakes may weaken the case to the extent that the charges are reduced.

Can my case be dismissed if I wasn’t advised of my Miranda Rights?
The answer is usually NO with some exceptions.

This is probably the Number 1 question that we are asked when someone is charged with a crime. In 1966, the Supreme Court held that Miranda Warnings by the police are required to protect a person suspected of a crime pursuant to the Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination during police interrogation. When the police have other evidence to proceed against a person, the person’s own statements may not be necessary. Therefore, should the person’s own statements be excluded (based upon Miranda violations), the State may proceed against the person based upon other independent evidence and witnesses. We are often asked this question in the realm of drunk driving cases. Consider the following example:

Example: Assume that a person admits to drinking 4 beers after being stopped for a DUI. The accused may argue that the statements are not admissible because he wasn’t given his Miranda warnings or because the statements were involuntary. Even if the attorney is able to have the statements suppressed (inadmissible at trial), the prosecutor may still proceed with other evidence such as the chemical test (BAC result from blood or breath), witnesses (police or civilians) who viewed the conduct of the accused, the accused’s ability to perform Field Sobriety Tests (FST), etc.

Please be advised that when statements of the accused are suppressed, the Court may also suppress any other evidence derived from the inadmissible statements pursuant to the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine. When substantial evidence is suppressed (held inadmissible), the case may be dismissed or quashed.

Again, please remember that entire books and treatises have been written on the subject of Miranda Warnings (BOOK LINK).

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Do I have the right to make a phone call if I am arrested?
The answer is NO.

I do not know of any law in Michigan that allows someone the right to make a phone call upon being arrested. However, some police agencies have adopted regulations which allow an arrested person to make a phone call in the furtherance of Miranda Warnings which provide that a person has a right to remain silent and a right to an attorney
The right to make a phone call is a misnomer since it is actually not a right at all. It is merely a formality which allows an arrested party to call family members or an attorney. Should the police deny a person the right to call an attorney, there may be a legally arguable Constitutional issue. At the very least, we would argue to suppress any statements or information gathered from a suspect who is questioned after being denied a phone call (to his attorney) on the 5th and 6th Amendment grounds (self-incrimination and denial of right to counsel).

Take another look at the image which is posted at the top of this blog.
This scenario raises at least 14 questions which our criminal defense attorneys would ask:

1. Is the person/suspect in custody (not free to leave)?
2. Was the person/suspect validly arrested or detained?
3. Is the person/suspect under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
4. How long has the person/suspect been detained?
5. Was the person/suspect intimidated by the officer (armed and in uniform)?
6. Is the person/suspect suffering any mental condition?
7. Was the person/suspect coerced, threatened or intimidated?
8. Was the person/suspect denied nutrition and rest room facilities?
9. Did the person/suspect ask for an attorney during questioning which was denied?
10. Does the person/suspect take any medications which could impair his judgment?
11. Was the person/accused deprived of sleep or rest?
12. What is the age, intelligence level (IQ) of the person/suspect?

Violation of Miranda Rights or the ability to make a phone call can provide a basis for a motion to quash (dismiss) or suppress evidence. For this reason, every detail and fact is important when you talk to your lawyer.

Some excellent video references:

Ten Rules When Dealing With Police (Video)
Don’t Talk to the Police (Video)
The Proper Way to Handle a Police Stop (Video)

If you have a question, please visit our website and send the question which we will attempt to answer and may even consider making it the subject of a future blog.

Links to some other frequently asked questions:

Can I be charged with a crime if only one person says I did it and there are no other witnesses or evidence?

Do court appointed lawyers work for the police and prosecutor?
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fbi-4-30-09[1].jpgIn the United States, there are crimes which may be prosecuted at the State level based upon violations of State laws. A Federal crime is one which involves a violation of a Federal law. Many criminal offenses may fall under the jurisdiction of both the State and Federal laws and either or both branches of government may prosecute. The doctrine of double jeopardy does not preclude both State and Federal prosecutions under the doctrine of dual sovereignty.

There are literally thousands of Federal laws. Many Federal crimes are listed in Title 18 of the United States Code. In addition, there are several Federal agencies with authority to investigate Federal offenses including: Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), United States Marshal Service (USMC), United States Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security. Postal Inspectors investigate any crime in which the U.S. Mail is used to further a crime by use of the mail, telephone, or on the Internet (mailfraud).

In Michigan,United States Districts Courts (Federal courts) are located in Detroit (Eastern District), Lansing, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Port Huron, Flint and the upper peninsula. Federal criminal defense attorneys are required to adhere to the Federal Court Rules. The formalities, procedure, sentence guidelines and process of the Federal courts are inherently stricter than the State courts. All of this means that anyone faced with a Federal criminal investigation or Federal criminal charge(s) should retain a qualified Federal criminal defense lawyer.


All drug crimes require the element of possession. This publication will examine the applicable Michigan laws which pertain to the issue of “possession” as an element of a crime.

Many Michigan criminal laws, especially drug crimes and stolen property laws, contain an element or requirement of “possession”. Possession of child pornography cases invariably involves legal arguments by criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors regarding the issue of possession. In this regard, specialized computer forensics or other technical evidence is used by law enforcement to establish the element of “possession” and by criminal defense attorneys to contest the issue. Michigan laws which make possession in and of itself the crime allows for arrests and convictions without proving the use or sale of a prohibited item.

There are several terms which are used to describe different types of possession such as actual possession, constructive possession, joint possession, or sole possession. Historically, actual possession was required for a criminal possession conviction to stick. In other words, a person could not be charged with a crime unless he was “caught red handed” with the illegal property. In the 1920’s, courts expanded criminal possession to include “constructive possession”.

Possession versus Ownership: Possession is not the same as ownership. The phrase “possession is nine-tenths of the law,” is often used to suggest that someone who possesses property, other than the lawful owner, can face legal consequences.

Actual possession is what most of us think of as possession-that is, having physical custody or control of an object” (United States v. Nenadich, 689 F.Supp. 285 [S.D. N.Y. 1988]). Actual possession, also sometimes called possession in fact, is used to describe immediate physical contact. Frequently, a set of facts clearly indicate that an individual has possession of an object but that he or she has no physical contact with it. To properly deal with these situations, courts have broadened the scope of possession beyond actual possession.

Constructive possession is a legal theory used to extend possession to situations where a person has no hands-on custody of an object. Constructive possession is frequently used as a legal theory in the prosecution of crimes involving drugs, guns and stolen property. Constructive possession, also sometimes called “possession in law,” exists where a person has the ability to control the object even if the person has no physical contact with it. For example, people often keep important papers and other valuable items in a bank safety deposit box. Although they do not have actual physical custody of these items, they do have knowledge of the items and the ability to exercise control over them. For legal purposes, they are considered to have constructive possession of the contents of the safety deposit box.

Link to Blog: Proving Possession In Drug Crimes
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