Friday, October 3, 2008

Dropping Dime: An Incredibly Informative Primer

Image courtesy of CoupeDeVal

"Snitch", a series on Frontline a while back, "investigates how a fundamental shift in the country's anti-drug laws --including federal mandatory minimum sentencing and conspiracy provisions--has bred a culture of snitching that is in many cases rewarding the guiltiest and punishing the less guilty." The website and show is, sadly enough, still relevant ten years later as we have the same mandatory minimum laws that were discussed then. The site contains transcripts and recordings from the series as well as a Primer on Drug Laws and Snitching. The Primer has a nice history of why Congress gave us the mandatory minimum laws and the resulting human and financial costs of such a system. There are some indications that the tide is turning a bit with the attention to this topic lately especially in the reduction in the crack cocaine guidelines, increased attention to the use and regulation of informants, and bills before Congress.

With the US Supreme Court examining the case of Pearson v. Callahan on October 14th, the topic remains a hot one. Pearson involves whether the police can enter a home without a warrant under the theory that the resident consented by previously permitting an undercover informant into the home. The ScotusWiKi has a full accounting of the case including briefing in the Courts below and Amicus Briefs filed by the ACLU and NACDL among others. For additional tips on dealing with informants, check out this "Tools for Lawyers" section on the ACLU website. An interesting read there is the lecture outline from Justice Trott, of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who trains prosecutors concerning the use of informants in criminal prosecutions.

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