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Are ATF agents entrapping people in undercover operations?

Entrapment is the act of law enforcement or government officials inducing a person to commit a crime that the person did not have prior intent to commit. Officials are allowed to use some forms of deception, but the lines between enforcing and entrapping can easily become blurred.

Many in the legal profession—including a federal judge in Chicago—argue that the controversial strategies used by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to put members of inner-city communities who are believed to be violent behind bars is, in fact, entrapment. The ATF refers to these people as “trigger pullers.” Once identified as such they are approached by undercover officers to rob a fake stash house. The agency has been using these techniques since the 1990s.

To date, 1,000 arrests have been made; not all are actually violent criminals, however. Approximately 130 of those arrests involved citizens with no criminal records whatsoever. In one case, the ATF allegedly went so far as to give the suspect a weapon. There is no reason to assume that some of those targeted by the ATF stings are violent. Even some who had prior criminal records were not convicted of violent crimes. Yet, they are persuaded by undercover officers with an offer so lucrative it is hard for most to turn down.

Law enforcement officials on all levels need to follow proper protocol when conducting undercover investigations. If you feel that you have been coerced into committing a crime that you otherwise would not have committed by an undercover officer, you may want to consult with a criminal defense attorney to determine if your constitutional rights have been violated. An attorney can also help prove in court that you did not have prior intent to commit a violent crime.

Source: USA Today, ATF uses fake drugs, big bucks to snare suspects,” Brad Heath, June 28, 2013.

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