When is it a good idea to cooperate with the government?

Cooperation can drastically reduce a potential charge or sentence. It can also be a risky move with potentially disastrous consequences.

You may be given an offer to cooperate with the government before you are charged, or after you are charged during plea negotiations. You should act fast in making your decision, as your offer may not be on the table as the case progresses.

Cooperation with the government could involve becoming a Confidential Informant, testifying, and providing information that leads to evidence against someone else.

You should consider how realistic the government’s expectations are of you. If the cooperation agreement falls through, it could hurt your case and bargaining power more than before you agreed to enter into the agreement. Consider whether you have corroborating evidence, which is evidence that tends to support your version of events.

It is also important to consider your risks. If you agree to testify, could it harm your position in your current case in any way? Can you become the subject of an investigation for another crime? In some cases involving a Confidential Informant, his or her identity may eventually be revealed to the defense. Most of the time, though, your identity can be deduced from the accusations, even if your name is hidden. You should consider this if you think there may be a risk to your safety or well-being if your identity is revealed.

Of course, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in making this critical decision.  In this type of scenario, it is important that your defense attorney and the prosecution have open lines of communication so that terms are laid out clearly.

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