Fans of the television show Breaking Bad remember the scene when Badger, the drug dealer, refused to sell drugs to a man he suspected was an undercover cop. The man managed to convince Badger that he was just a regular guy, only to reveal after the exchange that Badger had been right all along. He was a cop.
A police officer posing as a civilian to root out drug dealers is controversial. In Florida, we have recently experienced how posing to stop crime can backfire on cops. In this case, three police officers accused of trespassing turned what could have been an important drug bust into a police scandal by posing as deliverymen to get close enough to houses of suspects to smell marijuana being grown in the home.
While the crime was already being committed whether or not they posed as civilians, these police officers ignored the rules of probable cause by entering private property under false pretenses. Enticing people to open their doors without probable cause ensured that the evidence uncovered was thrown out of court.
Whether on TV shows or in the news, many have wondered where the line is drawn between keeping our communities safe and tricking people into committing crimes. The most basic question courts must decide in such cases is whether the defendant would have still committed the crime if the police were not involved. Alternatively, did police use entrapment to trick the defendant into engaging in the crime?
An undercover cop approaches a suspected drug dealer and offers to buy drugs. This can be seen as seizing an opportunity to expose a crime that is already happening. However, a police officer crosses the line by trying to convince a person who is otherwise not involved to commit the crime and then prosecute that person for it.
A common myth is that a cop has to tell you if he is a cop. This not true. A cop can lie and tell you he is not a cop. There is nothing illegal about a cop going undercover and pretending to be someone else. However, a cop can not entice you or encourage you to commit a crime.
When it comes to your freedom, don’t just accept that you are charged with a crime. Get the support of an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer to untangle the laws of entrapment if they apply to your case.