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Could an undercover police officer sign a contract as part of an investigation (for example, to gain access to a location)?

If they signed it using their real name, would the contract be binding on them? If they signed it with a fake name, would that be perjury?

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    In England it's illegal to sign a contract with a fake name, however there would be a blanket 'public interest defence' for a policeman or undercover operative to do so as part of their duties as an undercover operative, and hence the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) would always decline to prosecute for doing so. Assuming the contract was signed in their real name, they might need to argue to a magistrate that the contract wasn't signed in good faith. With a letter from their superiors to that effect, it's hard to imagine that any judge would enforce a contract of that sort.
    – Richard
    Dec 31 '21 at 12:26
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A contract (assuming that the contract itself was for a legal object, rather than, for example, a contract to pay $100,000 for X kilograms of cocaine), is binding whether or not it is signed in the officer's real name.

Generally speaking, someone who signs a contract when secretly working as an agent for some organization in manner not disclosed to the other party to the contract has personal liability for a breach of that contract, even if the undisclosed principal (the government that employs the undercover agent) has a secret duty to reimburse the agent for this expense.

Perjury pertains only to statements made under penalty of perjury or under oath, which a contract would almost never do. And, if the intent of the undercover agent at the time the contract was signed was not to stiff the other party to the contract and not pay, it would also not constitute either criminal fraud or civil fraud.

Instead, it would be more analogous to a sole proprietor who does not have a legal business entity, doing business under a trade name, or an actor or author doing business under an alias.

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  • If someone deceives someone into entering into a contract, but not at the financial loss of the other party, is that not fraud? For instance, if I refuse to do business with cops on principle, and someone lies and says they are not a cop, have I been defrauded? Dec 31 '21 at 3:34
  • @Acccumulation Damages are an element of the tort remedies for fraud. I also don't believe that any criminal fraud statute would apply in these circumstances.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 31 '21 at 17:18

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