House Committee Approves 'Rachel's Law' For Confidential Informants

A "Rachel's Law" compromise sailed through House committee this morning.

The legislation, named for 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman who was killed in a botched drug sting while working as a confidential informant, aims to provide better protection and more standard regulation for informants.

Speaking softly, but firmly, in a hushed committee room, Margie Weiss made a successful legislative debut on Tuesday, convincing a House panel to approve "Rachel's Law" on behalf of her slain daughter.

Rachel Hoffman was a recent Florida State University graduate in a court-ordered drug treatment program last year when she agreed to wear a wire for the Tallahassee Police Department.

She was found shot to death in May, 36 hours after being given $13,000 in cash and sent to buy drugs and a gun from two suspected dealers who now face murder charges.

The measure (HB 271) by Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, seeks greater oversight in the use of confidential informants.

"She made some mistakes, but her death was absolutely unnecessary," said Weiss, a massage therapist from Safety Harbor. "She died horribly . . . My daughter's murder was far from an isolated mistake."

The House Public Safety and Domestic Security Policy Committee unanimously approved a compromise measure, which was initially targeted for defeat by the state's most powerful law enforcement agencies. Sponsors agreed to drop many of the provisions, including requiring prosecutors to approve the use of an informant after police warned that it would be cumbersome, put informants at greater risk and threaten their most effective law-enforcement tool.

"The last thing we want to do is hamper the ability of law enforcement to catch the bad guys," Nehr said.

Sponsors still want to require investigators to offer potential informants access to an attorney.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is sponsoring a companion measure.