Can the Defense Track Down an Anonymous Tip?

If someone calls the police and leaves an anonymous tip, and that tip leads to an arrest and criminal charges, can the defendant’s criminal defense attorney track down the person who made the tip and identify them to the offender? Is the anonymous tipper at risk of being found out?

As criminal defense lawyers, we certainly hope so. If someone is in this situation and they want to be 100% anonymous, their best bet is to call “Crime Stoppers,” because they are about as anonymous as it gets.

We cannot help but be partially biased when it comes a defendant’s legal rights to due process and a fair trial. One of the most fundamental constitutional rights that every American has is to confront any witnesses that the state intends to use to secure a conviction.

Yes, a criminal defense attorney can find out someone’s identity if they called the police and made an anonymous tip. But, the caller can also be listed as a “confidential witness.”

About Confidential Witnesses

We’ve all heard about confidential witnesses on TV and in Hollywood movies, usually when the story had something to do with the mob. A dozen or so mob bosses are arrested and put on trial in a highly-publicized media event after a confidential informant has been giving information to the FBI and police.

Does this mean that the mob bosses or other criminal defendants have the right to know their informant’s identity? It depends.

During the discovery process, the prosecution is required to disclose the information that it’s using to seek a conviction.

Usually, this means that the defendant is entitled to know the names as well as the statements made by any witnesses relevant to the case, but the state may not necessarily reveal the identity of a special witness – the confidential information or CI.

Generally, the government likes to keep the identity of CIs confidential, after all, when CIs come forward to the police, they do so voluntarily and they don’t want to be identified because they fear for their safety.

The police realize that if they give the identity of a CI, not only will they cease getting information from that person, it will deter others from becoming informants. Given the importance of CIs, courts give them special treatment, and they aren’t treated like other witnesses.

Is it possible to learn a CI’s identity? Yes it is, but it can be an uphill battle for the defendant. If someone tipped the police off about you, we suggest that you contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney from Thomas & Paulk, P.A. to see how we would handle your particular situation.

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