The article, “Lessons of Disloyalty in the World of Criminal Informants,” by Elon Law Professor Michael Rich, has been published in volume 49 of Georgetown University Law Center’s American Criminal Law Review.
“Without informants, policing would grind to a halt,” Rich writes in the article’s abstract. “The majority of drug and organized crime prosecutions hinge on the assistance of confidential informants, and white collar prosecutions and anti-terrorism investigations increasingly depend on them. Yet society by and large hates informants. The epithets used to describe them – ‘snitch,’ ‘rat,’ and ‘weasel,’ among others – suggest the reason: the informant, by assisting the police, is guilty of betrayal. And betrayal is, in the words of George Fletcher, ‘one of the basic sins of our civilization.’ But identifying disloyalty as the reason for society’s disdain raises more questions than it answers. Are all informants disloyal, or are only some? Are there governing principles to distinguish those informants who are disloyal from those who are not? To whom are these informants disloyal? What import does an informant’s disloyalty have beyond the social stigma on the informant? These questions matter because informants are crucial cogs in the law enforcement machine, but they have largely escaped the attention of legal scholars.”
An online version of Rich’s article will be made available soon at American Criminal Law Review. A version of the article is also available through the Michael Rich’s Social Science Research Network author’s page.