Family pushing to strengthen law concerning confidential informants

Rachel Hoffman murdered while working as informant for police

FSU graduate Rachel Hoffman was killed while acting as an undercover informant for the Tallahassee Police Department.
FSU graduate Rachel Hoffman was killed while acting as an undercover informant for the Tallahassee Police Department.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It was the first law in the country passed to protect confidential informants being used by police, but the family of the murdered girl the law was named for is back this year trying to strengthen it.

Informants would no longer be able to go undercover to buy drugs if they're involved in a drug treatment program. They would also be allowed to speak with a lawyer before agreeing to do the police work.

Rachel Hoffman was only 23 and had recently graduated from Florida State University when she was murdered while working as a confidential informant for the Tallahassee police. She was doing the work in exchange for leniency on a marijuana and prescription pill charge.

Hoffman was killed while attempting to buy drugs and a gun from two men in the 2008 sting operation. She had virtually no training and hadn't been able to consult with anyone before agreeing. 

"Rachel was not suitable to be a confidential informant," said Irv Hoffman, Rachel's father. "She broke almost all the guidelines of being a confidential informant."

Irv Hoffman and the family's attorney, Lance Block, are back at the Capitol trying to strengthen Rachel's Law. The family said the law, put into effect in 2009, didn't go far enough. Rachel Hoffman was in a court-ordered program that forbade her from being around drugs, and she was sent out to buy them anyway.

"Sending them out there to do police work is wrong," Irv said. "You wouldn't send (an) alcoholic into a bar for help, so why would you send a person with an addiction problem to buy drugs?"

The proposed revisions to the law include putting in more safeguards for confidential informants, as well as prohibiting minors in taking part. Any law enforcement violating the provisions could be faced with a felony charge.

Block said annual reports from police departments about informant data is also necessary.

"Most importantly, we don't know how many people are being killed or hurt while being involved in these types of transactions," Block said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement would be required to put out an annual report if the changes to the law pass.