I am a playwright working on a new play related to Ag-Gag laws. My plot involves a woman who is trespassing with another animal rights activist to film animal cruelty at a CAFO. Unbeknownst to her, the "activist" is actually an undercover policeman who has infiltrated the animal rights group. Once the woman has captured the abuse on her camera, I would like the undercover guy to reveal himself and arrest her. But is this at all realistic? (I don't mind a little poetic license, but I don't want to make it completely far-fetched.) Thanks for any insights!

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    In some places, Undercover Police are allowed to have sex with prostitutes before making an arrest. I'm pretty sure your situation is standard police work. Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 15:41
  • If you don't mind, could you specify the country and if possible, the region in that country, this is taking place?
    – hszmv
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 19:20
  • @hszmv This is for a play, so it probably doesn't have a specific jurisdiction, and it just needs to look good to people (preferably including people who know something of procedures). Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 20:33

3 Answers 3


A lawyer would have several questions here: is trespass an arrestable offence in this jurisdiction? Did the officer persuade the woman to commit the trespass (entrapment)? Do citizen's arrests and warrantless arrests exist here? It sounds, though, as if the level of realism you are looking for is "her lawyer turned up and a few hours later she was out on bail" or thereabouts: for that purpose, your scenario is fine.

As Justin pointed out, though, it's somewhat implausible to have an undercover operation revealed simply to make an arrest for trespass; whether she has taken photographs is irrelevant legally, so the time and resources (including the officer's cover) have been expended simply to make a misdemanour arrest that could have been made by a passing patrol, or even a security guard.

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    There is the concept of citizens arrest in common law, which occurs when a civilian witnesses a crime and detains the accused until such time as lawful authorities can take over. These are frowned upon by the police because the police are trained to make lawful arrests, where the citizen arrest is being done by an armature and might get close to vigilantism. You can face legal responsibilities from doing it wrong for this reason.
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 20:53

Realistically, if a bust was going to be made, uniformed cops will make the arrest of the entire group, or all who were in attendance, including the undercover officer who will be separated from the rest of the group to be debriefed. This is to keep the fact that the undercover officer may still need to be undercover as the lawyer may be able to pass word from the arrested activist to the rest of the group (cops cannot listen to lawyer's conversations with their clients... if the arresting officer is undercover, than she could warn others about the undercover officer and stop further investigation of the group.


well, the officer is on duty even if its undercover he can make an arrest and even if he was not in duty her would still arrest her and call his cop friends to write it up as his arrest.

The bigger thing is the cop does not want to blow his cover.

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