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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

North Dakota passes cutting edge legislation

In the wake of the death of college student Andrew Sadek, North Dakota has passed Andrew's Law, an important piece of legislation that sets a new standard in informant reform.  Some of the most heartening aspects of the bill are as follows:

  • It bans the use of informants who are 15 years old or younger. Only California and New Jersey currently ban the use of juvenile informants at the state level, and their cutoff is 12 years old.  
  • College police may not use college students as informants.
  • Police officers must be trained before they use informants.
  • All informant agreements must be in writing. The agreement must include, among other things, an explanation of what the informant is expected to do and what benefit they can expect to receive.  This is particularly important since young and vulnerable informants may not know what is expected of them, and law enforcement may continue to use them without clear boundaries or limits.
  • The agreement must tell the informant of their right to consult with counsel.
  • The agreement must warn the informant that the work may be dangerous.
  • The bill creates procedures for complaints, and an investigative process when an informant is killed.
This legislation is the culmination of a decade-long public debate over vulnerable informants that has been brewing since 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman was killed in Florida in 2008.  Since then, we have learned about the rampant, unregulated use of young informants, and how some campus police pressure college students into risking their education and even their lives.  North Dakota's new law is one of the best responses so far.  More details from the Huffington Post here.