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Can the source of illegal drugs used by law enforcement constitutionally shield those illicitly involved with those drugs from liability?

For example, if law enforcement uses a pharmacy's drugs to sell someone a trafficking amount, is that someone liable of trafficking?

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  • Sorry, who is shielded: the pharmacy, the law enforcement officer or the buyer?
    – Dale M
    Nov 19, 2015 at 2:57
  • Downvoter, please explain the reason. Nov 19, 2015 at 3:34
  • @DaleM, Is the buyer shielded? Such as in State v. Williams, 623 So. 2d 462 Fla. Nov 19, 2015 at 3:35
  • Did the police ask the someone to buy the drugs?
    – Viktor
    Nov 24, 2015 at 4:17
  • @Viktor no, the police made the pharmacy's drugs available to buy but did not ask the person to buy them. The officer however did order the pharmacist to sell drugs out of the pharmacy's stock to someone Nov 24, 2015 at 4:26

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The Florida Supreme Court has held in State v. Williams, 623 So. 2d 462 Fla. that if a law enforcement agency manufactures drugs for use in a reverse-sting operation, then this constitutes governmental misconduct and is a violation of the Florida Constitution due process clause and that a conviction in these circumstances should be reversed.

That is, the manufacturing of a controlled substance may be grounds for reversing a conviction which relies on that substance.

However, based on this judgement, the circumstance you describe would not be a violation of due process. From the judgement, at 466:

Section 893.02(12)(a), Florida Statutes (1989), defines "manufacture" as:

the production, preparation, propagation, compounding, cultivating, growing, conversion, or processing of a controlled substance either directly or indirectly, by extraction from substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis, and includes any packaging of the substance or labeling or relabeling of its container....

Further, the judgement distinguishes State v Bass 451 So.2d 986 (1984) wherein law enforcement officials delivered marijuana obtained from federal agents to defendants as part of a reverse-sting operation. At Appeal, it was held that law enforcement officials do not need statutory authority to "engage in reverse-sting deliveries of controlled substances".

That is, simply using drugs from a pharmacy without modification, repackaging or otherwise relabelling, does not constitute conduct so outrageous as to violate Florida's due process clause, and on the facts that you have presented, there is no evidence that a due process defence would be held.

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  • So a law enforcement officer can sell a pharmacy's drugs to a suspected criminal without paying for them? Nov 21, 2015 at 15:26
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    They may reimburse the pharmacy for the drugs if the suspected criminal did not pay. This will depend on the precise circumstances, and whether this would affect the suspected criminal's guilt has not been tested as far as I know. How they obtained the pharmacists drugs are likely to be considered, as well as whether the transaction took place between the suspect and the pharmacist, or the police. Please ask a new question if you'd like an answer to whether the police would be required to pay for a pharmacy's drugs in order to use them, as it is rather different to the question you asked.
    – jimsug
    Nov 21, 2015 at 15:35
  • Regarding reimbursement, what if the suspected criminal paid? Would it be legal for the police officer to use the criminal's money for the reimbursement? It's like the police officer got the drugs from the pharmacy on consignment or credit Nov 23, 2015 at 5:28
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    It's a bit tricky (and really close to impossible) trying to determine a likely outcome from a series of disjointed facts. You should try to provide as much of a scenario as possible. How did the police obtain the drugs? Did the police sell the drugs to the suspect directly, or are you equating their use of a pharmacy's drugs and a pharmacist as their selling of the drugs? Do the police know that they are using a pharmacy's drugs (what if they confiscated it from someone else who had stolen it from the pharmacy)?
    – jimsug
    Nov 23, 2015 at 5:37
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    You're not actually providing more detail, though. You're just repeating the question. How did they obtain the drugs? Do they actually know they're using the pharmacy's drugs? You say "authorized the sell [sic] of pharmacy drugs", which is not the same as selling a pharmacy's drugs - are they selling it, or merely authorizing someone else to sell them? You should edit this information into your follow up question.
    – jimsug
    Nov 23, 2015 at 5:57

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