On February 17, 2021 the Iowa Court of Appeals in State v. Tucker dismissed felony drug charges against an informant who upheld her end of a task force proffer.
Although both the factual and procedural histories are long and winding, the issue on appeal was fairly straightforward. Should the court enforce a plea agreement against the State when the informant does what the prosecutor specifically asked as part of the plea agreement?
Here, the informant faced 40 years in prison for methamphetamine and heroin possession. She made a proffer to the task force and agreed to testify against another party in a separate case. The State agreed to dismiss her drug charges.
The prosecutor expected her to enter a written task force agreement specifically for her case at her proffer. Instead, the task force assumed she was operating under a prior cooperation agreement. Nothing tied the prior agreement, however, to her current plea negotiations.
In the end, the court considered what the parties agreed to, not what they could have agreed to. The evidence showed the informant was not told at her proffer that she would be required to sign a new agreement or that the previous terms were binding as part of her new charges. The court construed all plea agreement ambiguities against the State.
Snitching is certainly dangerous business. The drug defense attorneys at GRL Law don’t exactly root for narcs because they are cooperating against our clients often for profit or to work off charges. However, we may very well make an exception here especially considering the bumbling actions of the task force.
No snitches were harmed in the writing of this blog.