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I recently saw a video on YouTube about a kid who was arrested after "selling" weed to an undercover cop who was pretending to be his friend at school, what I found even worse was that the kid had autism and the cop had manipulated the student into buying him the drugs. Is this legal at all? It seems more like a human rights violation. Just a side note this kid was not actually a drug dealer, the cop just kept persisting that the kid could "help him out" and find him some for him so, the kid gave in.

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    In which jurisdiction? Oct 21, 2019 at 11:28
  • To expand on the "which jurisdiction" issue, different U.S. states, for example, have different laws on using deceit in law enforcement dealings with juveniles.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 4, 2022 at 19:10

2 Answers 2

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That the cop claims to be your friend is not more illegal than a salesman claiming that he has "the best offer" for you because he likes you (in fact didn't you see any film about the good cop/bad cop routine?)

The term you are looking for is Entrapment. The (very simplified) basic idea is that police officers can promote the comission of a crime to catch criminals but cannot "trap" innocent people into it; the difference being that their persuassion should not turn otherwise innocent people into criminals.

An extreme example would be if the cop threatens the target into commiting a crime.

For the more usual situation when a cop promotes a crime to catch the criminal, I saw it explained (just for illustration purposes, it is not that you are safe when the cop insists a third time) as it follows:

  • Legal:

    Cop) Oh boy! The place where I work is full of cash and they don't even have alarms or store it in a safe box. If someone helps me, we could go this night and take all of it. Are you interested?

    Target) I don't know.

    Cop) Trust me, it will be easy, nobody is there at night and it will be just a couple of hours.

    Target) Ok, count me in.

  • Illegal

    Cop) Oh boy! The place where I work is full of cash and they don't even have alarms or store it in a safe box. If someone helps me, we could go this night and take all of it. Are you interested?

    Target) I am not a thief.

    Cop) Come on, it will be easy, the place is insured and nobody will be hurt.

    Target) Not interested.

    Cop) We can get 5000 US$ each one, just for a night of work. Didn't you told me that you had troubles with your bank? You could solve those overnight!

    Target) Maybe you are right, but I have no experience with these things...

    Cop) Do not worry, I will tell you what you need to do.

    Target) Ok, count me in.

Note that it is not only "the cop insisted a lot". For the drug dealer example, if the cop insisted a lot but, when agreed, the boy produced the drug from his pocket, already packaged for sale, it would not be entrapment. OTOH, if the guy had told "I do not know where to buy drugs" and the cop had told him "go talk with X so he sells you the drug", then it could be considered entrampment.

In any case, this is generic information only, entrapment is difficult to prove and will depend on the views of the judge/jury so, no matter how enticing that criminal offer is, just don't do it.

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  • Well that was the problem, this kid was not a drug dealer and did not have any drugs when first asked, the autistic kid just thought the cop was his friend so he didn't want to let him down so he went out and bought drugs for him.
    – Hamish
    Dec 11, 2016 at 3:19
  • Apart from the fact that "a youtube video" sheldom offers a complete and unbiased explanation of the facts, my guess is that the kid will have legal counsel and that his legal counsel will raise those issues, if it is appropiated; it would be really off-topic and missdirected for me or anyone else here to decide what the legal counsel, the judge or the jury should do. I am only providing a general comment about what are the limits on sting operations.
    – SJuan76
    Dec 11, 2016 at 22:09
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    Lying about not being a cop or about being your friend is legal. Showing you opportunities for crimes is legal. Convincing you to commit a crime that you otherwise wouldn't have committed is entrapment. There's a line between "legal" and "entrapment" that may be hard to draw. If someone is easily manipulated because they are not smart, or having mental health problems, something could be entrapment that otherwise wouldn't be.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 4, 2022 at 14:36
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Its legal in the sense that the officer probably isn't committing a crime (although laws vary) , however it does open the door for a very strong entrapment defense. Also, if the officer isn't careful it could expose the department to civil action.

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