Can a police officer authorize the sale of a pharmacy's drugs to a suspected criminal without paying for the drugs first?

Does this violate the United States or State Constitutions?

  • @phoog Okay, I believe we have identified a problem. You just said, "unless the officer first purchases the drugs, he cannot sell them". With that said, the officer can't authorize the sell of something that is not his, right? Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 0:20
  • @Breakskater Why not? The State of New York authorizes the sale of every prescription drug I purchase, but it does not itself sell them to me. The very premise of your question is that the officer does not own the drugs: "without paying for the drugs first." I think we need a more detailed description of your hypothetical sale before we can answer your question properly.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 0:26
  • By the State of New York, I presume you mean the New York Statutes have laws that authorize a pharmacy to sell you prescriptions. That's different. Does the State of New York allow a police officer to authorize the sell? Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 0:34
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – jimsug
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 0:41

2 Answers 2


There is no problem authorizing the pharmacy to conduct the sale. Directing or ordering the sale might be a problem, but it's the pharmacy's objection that matters (not the alleged criminal's). Usually, the pharmacy has an interest in cooperating with these activities and does not object. Hence, no problem.

It seems to me that shoplifting would be a good analogy. A pharmacy has an interest in stopping theft. The police may survey a suspect while giving the pharmacy instruction to allow shoplifting to occur. The pharmacy cooperates with this because it's entirely in their interest to provide the police with the evidence they need.

Now, if the cops demanded a few bottles of oxy to sell during a sting, yeah, a pharmacy could certainly challenge the reasonableness of that seizure. The pharmacy, not the accused.*

You mention a reverse sting in the comments. There are plenty of examples of judges using fairly strong language against police who go too far, but the law is pretty new. In other words, reverse stings are getting popular and cases with certain facts need to make their way through various courts in order to be decided in favor of the accused.

*You might be on to something with this question, along with the other one about outrageous conduct and the case where cops manufactured their own drugs. Ordering a unwilling pharmacy to provide drugs for a sting might be as outrageous as manufacturing drugs, but that is an extremely fact-specific question.

  • Do you have access to the Florida Defenders publication Volume 22, No. 4, Winter 2010 or know how I can obtain a copy? It has a topic on due process violations of an officer ordering the sell of a pharmacy's drugs. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 0:56
  • 1
    I don't think I have access to it and I'm traveling for the next week so I won't be able to check. It seems like a regional pub that probably doesn't make it into the databases I have access to. I would start with an email or call to the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers which is the org that publishes that thing. Otherwise a trip to the law library at your courthouse if you're in a major metro. The librarian there will be able to tell you if it's available electronically or through print sources.
    – jqning
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 3:12

A pharmacy can refuse a police order to subvert their normal and customary policies with respect to drug purchases by suspected criminals.

i.e. if a pharmacy would decline to fill a prescription because of their normal policy, they are within their rights to refuse to do it merely because the police asked them to. Alternatively, if their normal and customary policies would have allowed the purchase, then they might indeed participate with the police.

  • Would the police officer violate the constitution if the pharmacy believed they were obligated to comply with any police orders? Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 0:01

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