On Sting Operations and Entrapment
Law enforcement agents are tasked with ensuring that the general public is protected from the dangers of dealing with dangerous criminals. They will use all means necessary to see this through, relying on every possible measure provided by law for a higher chance of catching the suspects. Unfortunately, this can possibly lead to officers using risky procedures that can be considered illegal in certain jurisdictions. One of these ‘borderline’ procedures is the sting operation.
Sting operations require law enforcers to go undercover, setting up a scene where the suspect will eventually commit the crime and be caught in the act. Legal experts and criminal defense attorneys in Nevada often call out the police when they conduct such operations because of the legal and ethical implications that are involved. Sting operations straddle the line between catching a suspect in the act of committing a crime and clandestinely urging the suspect to commit the crime in order to have a case.
Putting in the Sting
The main purpose of conducting sting operations is to both secure irrefutable evidence that a suspect committed a crime, and to capture the suspect on the scene after enough probably evidence has been collected. Law enforcement agents justify the employment of sting operations with the need to put the suspect on the spot, leaving him or her no other alibi for his or her charges. The immediacy of the act often outweighs the need to follow most regulations.
Sting operations encompass a variety of methods and techniques. The most commonly depicted types involve meeting up with the suspect while posing as a potential buyer or prospective client in a pandering ring. One of the increasingly effective methods is posing as a hitman-for-hire to nab people seeking to have someone killed, or to play the role of a child online to track down pedophiles. Their effectiveness has been variable at best, and in recent years the need to execute such operations have increasingly been called into question.
Sting operations have long been a point of contention from both sides of the legal table. The most common issue brought up regarding these kinds of tasks is how the crime was committed only because the undercover officers set the situation up to facilitate such an event. Instead of proving that the suspect is indeed deeply involved in the crime, he or she would just be coerced on the spot, whether intentionally or accidentally. This thin line can spell the difference between police error and an actual intent to falsely accuse another.
Constitutional issues have also been a growing problem with sting operations. Some of these undercover activities can go beyond the legal limits allowed by local statutes, verging into warrantless arrests that could eventually lead to the case being dismissed in court. A recent illegal gambling case built by federal law enforcement against a Malaysian businessman dealing in Las Vegas was thrown out after the courts concluded that the method of obtaining the evidence for the case was considered a warrantless arrest.
Major Legal Implications
Ethical issues, constitutional conflicts and operational overlaps can be serious problems for sting operations. For the defendant, however, the real issue of sting operations lies with the problem of entrapment. Sting operations are likely set up to ensure that the suspect can be caught immediately after the fact; however, things can veer into an entrapment scenario very easily if the suspect was only coerced during the event to commit the offense.
The basic premise of entrapment is that the defendant was only tricked or otherwise forced to commit the act prior to being arrested, whether he or she had prior knowledge that he or she was dealing with undercover agents. Predisposition is a term that will come out often when determining an instance of entrapment, as it will validate the arrest even if the defendant had no prior connection to the crime. An entrapment defense works, for example, if the defendant was only coerced into purchasing contraband material; otherwise, if there was clear intent on the part of the defendant to purchase the contraband even without further coercion from the undercover agent or asset, the entrapment defense is invalidated.
Sting operations and entrapment are two issues that go hand-in-hand when it comes to determining a person’s innocence or guilt. When facing a possible conviction due to being caught in a sting operation, remember to weigh the possible repercussions of putting up an entrapment defense. Always consult with the defense lawyer to ensure that the defense procedure can be handled properly and effectively.