- These stings entice would-be robbers into fake home invasions
- A second federal judge has thrown out cases based on this law enforcement behavior
A Federal District Judge in Los Angeles threw out the cases against three men who had been indicted for robbery, ruling that the government conduct in setting them up was outrageous and amounted to unconstitutional entrapment. The entrapment doctrine has been around for a long time, but the courts are generally reluctant to invalidate cases based on it. The law gives government agents a great deal of leeway in their investigations, but they can cross the line when they entice someone to commit a crime who would not have done so, otherwise. Apparently, there is growing use by ATF of these drug-house robbery set-ups, where agents promise vast payouts to entice suspects to agree to rob fictitious drug houses.
The biggest problem with these stings is that often, the suspects are not suspects of anything until the agents create the idea of the crime. In doing so, they turn people have little or no criminal history, into major felons. Agents create the crime to pump up their arrest and convictions numbers, while not doing anything to stop actual crime. It’s lazy law enforcement… instead of looking for actual robbers and drug dealers, they find suckers and talk them into conspiring to commit a fake crime, and then serve up an easy arrest.
This ruling is the second in a couple of months to reject the tactic. Both cases are being appealed by the government. One might wonder why they are spending the money to fight for the right to prosecute fake crime, instead of focusing on getting the real criminals off the street. At the very least, we can hope that these rulings gets the government agencies to think twice about the tactics they use to make their busts. It’s a basic tenet of entrapment law that the sting operations should target ongoing criminal activity, and has repeatedly been ruled upon by the Supreme Court, going back to the Sorrells opinion in 1932.
The government action can violate the due process tenets of the Constitution where the criminal conduct was “the product of the creative activity of law-enforcement officials.” Sherman v. United States, 356 U.S. 369, 372 (1958). “In their zeal to enforce the law, however, Government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.” Jacobson v. U.S., 503 U.S. 540 (1992). Instead of fighting to be allowed to create crime, the government should be fighting the actual crime.