2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 905. Evidence — privileges.
905.10 Identity of informer.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 905.10 (2017)

905.10 Identity of informer.

(1)Rule of privilege. The federal government or a state or subdivision thereof has a privilege to refuse to disclose the identity of a person who has furnished information relating to or assisting in an investigation of a possible violation of law to a law enforcement officer or member of a legislative committee or its staff conducting an investigation.

(2)Who may claim. The privilege may be claimed by an appropriate representative of the federal government, regardless of whether the information was furnished to an officer of the government or of a state or subdivision thereof. The privilege may be claimed by an appropriate representative of a state or subdivision if the information was furnished to an officer thereof.

(3)Exceptions.

(a) Voluntary disclosure; informer a witness. No privilege exists under this rule if the identity of the informer or the informer's interest in the subject matter of the informer's communication has been disclosed to those who would have cause to resent the communication by a holder of the privilege or by the informer's own action, or if the informer appears as a witness for the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof.

(b) Testimony on merits. If it appears from the evidence in the case or from other showing by a party that an informer may be able to give testimony necessary to a fair determination of the issue of guilt or innocence in a criminal case or of a material issue on the merits in a civil case to which the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof is a party, and the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof invokes the privilege, the judge shall give the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof an opportunity to show in camera facts relevant to determining whether the informer can, in fact, supply that testimony. The showing will ordinarily be in the form of affidavits but the judge may direct that testimony be taken if the judge finds that the matter cannot be resolved satisfactorily upon affidavit. If the judge finds that there is a reasonable probability that the informer can give the testimony, and the federal government or a state or subdivision thereof elects not to disclose the informer's identity, the judge on motion of the defendant in a criminal case shall dismiss the charges to which the testimony would relate, and the judge may do so on the judge's own motion. In civil cases, the judge may make an order that justice requires. Evidence submitted to the judge shall be sealed and preserved to be made available to the appellate court in the event of an appeal, and the contents shall not otherwise be revealed without consent of the federal government, state or subdivision thereof. All counsel and parties shall be permitted to be present at every stage of proceedings under this subdivision except a showing in camera at which no counsel or party shall be permitted to be present.

(c) Legality of obtaining evidence. If information from an informer is relied upon to establish the legality of the means by which evidence was obtained and the judge is not satisfied that the information was received from an informer reasonably believed to be reliable or credible, the judge may require the identity of the informer to be disclosed. The judge shall on request of the federal government, state or subdivision thereof, direct that the disclosure be made in camera. All counsel and parties concerned with the issue of legality shall be permitted to be present at every stage of proceedings under this subdivision except a disclosure in camera at which no counsel or party shall be permitted to be present. If disclosure of the identity of the informer is made in camera, the record thereof shall be sealed and preserved to be made available to the appellate court in the event of an appeal, and the contents shall not otherwise be revealed without consent of the appropriate federal government, state or subdivision thereof.

History: Sup. Ct. Order, 59 Wis. 2d R1, R143 (1973); 1991 a. 32.

The trial judge incorrectly determined whether an informer's testimony was necessary to a fair trial. The proper test is whether the testimony the informer can give is relevant to an issue material to the defense and necessary to the determination of guilt or innocence. It is not for the judge to determine whether the testimony will be helpful. State v. Outlaw, 108 Wis. 2d 112, 321 N.W.2d 145 (1982).

The application of the informer privilege to communications tending to identify the informer and consideration by the trial court under sub. (3) (c) of the privileged information in determining reasonable suspicion for an investigative seizure is discussed. State v. Gordon, 159 Wis. 2d 335, 464 N.W.2d 91 (Ct. App. 1990).

When the defendant knew an informer's identity but sought to put the informer's role as an informer before the jury to support his defense that the informer actually committed the crime, the judge erred in not permitting the jury to hear the evidence. State v. Gerard, 180 Wis. 2d 327, 509 N.W.2d 112 (Ct. App. 1993).

The state is the holder of the privilege; disclosure by an informer's attorney is not “by the informer's own action." The privilege does not die with the informer. State v. Lass, 194 Wis. 2d 592, 535 N.W.2d 904 (Ct. App. 1995).

When there was sufficient evidence in the record to permit a rational court to conclude that a reasonable probability existed that the informer could provide relevant testimony necessary to a fair determination on the issue of guilt or innocence, the decision to forego an in camera hearing was within the discretion of the trial court. State v. Norfleet, 2002 WI App 140, 254 Wis. 2d 569, 647 N.W.2d 341, 01-1374.

Once a defendant has made an initial showing that there is a reasonable probability that an informer may be able to give testimony necessary to the determination of guilt or innocence, the state has the opportunity to show, in camera, facts relevant to whether the informer can provide that testimony. Only if the court determines that an informer's testimony is necessary to the defense in that it could create a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt, must the privilege to not disclose the informer give way. The state may present evidence that an informer's testimony is unnecessary. State v. Vanmanivong, 2003 WI 41, 261 Wis. 2d 202, 661 N.W.2d 76, 00-3257.

The trial court erred when upon finding affidavits of confidential informers insufficient it, on its own initiative and without contacting either party's attorney, requested additional information from law enforcement. If affidavits are insufficient, the court must hold an in camera hearing and take the testimony of the informers to determine if their testimony is relevant and material to the defendant's defense. State v. Vanmanivong, 2003 WI 41, 261 Wis. 2d 202, 661 N.W.2d 76, 00-3257.

The required showing to trigger an in camera review under sub. (3) (b) is a reasonable possibility, grounded in the facts and circumstances of the case, that a confidential informer may have information necessary to the defendant's theory of defense. The phrase “may be able to give testimony" confirms that the defendant's initial burden under the statute involves only a possibility the confidential informer may have information necessary to the defense, but it must be a reasonable possibility. A circuit court should consider all of the evidence to determine whether to grant an in camera review, not just the contents of the defendant's motion. State v. Nellessen, 2014 WI 84, 360 Wis. 2d 493, 849 N.W.2d 654, 12-0150. State v. Toliver, 2014 WI 85, 356 Wis. 2d 642, 851 N.W.2d 251, 12-0393.

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