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10 N.Y.L. Sch. J. Hum. Rts. 835 (1992-1993)
Turning Rat and Doing Time for Uncharged, Dismissed, or Acquitted Crimes: Do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Promote Respect for the Law

handle is hein.journals/nylshr10 and id is 843 raw text is: TURNING RAT AND DOING TIME FOR
Keri A. Goukt
I. Introduction
The impetus for this article was a lunch I had with an
attorney-friend who primarily represents indigent federal defendants.
En route to the restaurant, my friend bitterly complained about the
institutional injustices suffered by his clients, most of whom have
been arrested on federal drug-related charges.' In particular, he
decried, the government makes all of its cases by 'turning rats'2-by
© Copyright 1993 by the New York Law School Journal of Human Rights.
. Director of Externship Programs, Adjunct Professor of Law, New York Law
School; B.S. 1978, Union College; J.D. 1982, The Washington College of Law at the
American University. I wish to gratefully acknowledge Casey Donovan whose lunch-
time conversation initiated this article, and Professors Michael Perlin and Richard
Marsico for their comments and encouragement on earlier drafts. Lastly, I want to
thank Karyn Zeldman, Sharon Gasparo and Jeff Berger for their many hours of creative
and unflagging research assistance.
I Nationally, over 1/3 of the combined state and federal new inmates are drug
offenders. Over 60% of those in federal prisons have been convicted of drug offenses.
Jack B. Weinstein, The War On Drugs Is Self-Defeating, N.Y. TIMEs, July 8, 1993 at
A19. In 1981, drug defendants numbered about 7,500, comprising close to 18% of the
federal criminal caseload. By 1990, federal drug offenders numbered more than 20,000
or about one third of the caseload. Nationally, more than 64% of the federal criminal
caseload increase over the past decade is due to drug cases. Terrence Dunworth &
Charles D. Weisselberg, Felony Cases and the Federal Courts: the Guidelines
Experience, 66 S. CAL. L. REV. 99, 124 (1992).
2 Rats, snitches, stoolies, finks, or persons who turn or twist are all
terms which refer to informants. Popular imagery of such people is particularly
negative. James W. Marquart & Julian B. Roebuck, Prison Guards and Snitches, 25
BRITISH J. CRIM. 217, 217 (1985); Evan Haglund, Note, Impeaching the Underworld
Informant, 63 S. CAL. L. REv. 1405, 1408-9 (1990) (a twist or immunized informant
trades information for leniency on his charges).


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