Can probation officers lie to their clients?

I heard a rumor that probation officers can call up one of their clients, tell them their probation ended early, then later nail them for some violation of their probation if it turned out they were in fact still on probation.

Now I know police can lie to suspects and use what the suspect says against them. I’m curious if probation officers can do this too. Think about it- if the client couldn’t even prove the probation officer even talked to him about probation ending early and they did not have anything in writing, I don’t see how they could defend themselves in court if they did something that violated their probation- the P.O. could deny the conversation happened or pointed out verbal confirmation is not legally binding. The defendant wouldn’t have anything on paper by the courts verifying their probation was over. So basically they got 'tricked ’ into thinking they were off their probation so they could be tempted into doing something that was a former violation of their probation, and given a much harsher sentence as a result.

Is this even legal? Could a probation officer lie like this?

Obviously they CAN do that, for the reason you explained yourself. How that could possibly be legal is beyond me. Other than in the case of lying to a suspect, that “trick” would not serve to uncover the truth, or facilitate persecution, but to induce illegal behavior (i.e. violation of probation). You are not supposed to make people break the law.

What about a sting operation? It’s clearly legit for police to pretend to be drug buyers in order to catch dealers, or pretend to be dealers in order to catch buyers.

Could a probation officer (or probation department) hold a probation violation sting operation? E.g. maybe a Pennsylvania probation officer puts his “clients” on the Official Jersey Shore State Tourism mailing list and then waits at the Ben Franklin bridge looking for probationers trying to cross. Or maybe a probation officer slips some Bennigans ads into said clients’ mailboxes, knowing that those clients are not allowed to visit restaurants that server alcohol without first obtaining PO permission. Then, the PO and a bunch of his buddies go to Bennigans to scout for violators.

In a sting operation the LEOs do not represent themselves as such. In the case of the OP the probation officer seems to be giving official information to the parolee, as if a sting operation was run by uniformed police officers who told criminals that what they were doing was legal.

The other circumstances you mention don’t involve lying to the parolee. Dirty and underhanded tactics yes, but the parolee does know he’d be violating parole if he tried to cross the Ben Franklin or go to a bar.

I don’t know of any case law pertaining to the scenario in the OP. However it seems to meet the definition of entrapment. There certainly isn’t any reason for a probation officer to do what was mentioned. That’s not their job and they are busy enough with what they have to do already without manufacturing more work.

And it is not true that the police can say any lie to further their investigation. There are limits. Those limits vary between states.

I’ve seen as a plot point in many police dramas where the LEO’s invite a parolee that they want to use or get information from to a meeting. At that meeting is another known felon. One of the conditions of the parolee is they are not to associate with other known felons. The LEO’s then threaten the parolee with having his parole jerked if he doesn’t cooperate.

Common plot device. I have no idea if it is ever used IRL.

How could it? The police are causing the violation. That is entrapment.

Most criminals know the process involved in being taken off from probation, in fact probation is also called being “on paper”. It’s not just a call from your probation officer telling you so, there are court documents involved that close out your probation.

Not every parolee understands the law or consults an attorney prior to responding to police inquiries. I would suspect that it probably does happen in real life more often than would think. Just because it might be entrapment, doesn’t mean the LEO’s wouldn’t try it to get cooperation from a parolee. If the parolee cries foul, then they just drop it. Empty threats are commonly used by LEO’s.

I think you meant to say prosecution, but in context it seems strangely appropriate. :slight_smile:

I can’t recall the term for it, but I think there is some principle that allows you to rely on the government’s word in matters like this. What I do recall is that it doesn’t apply to the IRS, just because they say a deduction is legitimate doesn’t make it so. Perhaps for criminal matters it is simple entrapment.

Entrapment by Estoppel.

I think the general rule is more like this: No matter what screwed up information you might get from the IRS (or any other government agency), you are still required to pay the correct tax, even if that in only determined after the fact. And if you owe tax after the due date, you will still be required to pay interest on it.

If all this happened because of bad advice you got from the IRS (and you can prove it – good luck with that!) then you can get out of paying any additional penalties. Hey, it was a big step toward Freedom From The Big Bad IRS when they even agreed to that!

Thanks, that sounds like it. I think I heard it before as “‘official statement’ mistake of law” that is mentioned there. Wish I could see the rest of the article with the examples. The OP’s case may be “outrageous government misconduct” as also described since it wasn’t an honest mistake.

Yeah, it’s not the taxes due that’s the problem, it’s the interest and penalties that they can toss on. I’ve been a victim.

Since the question has been answered accurately, I feel free to give this excellent cautionary video about what such entrapment might look like in the real world, courtesy of Professors Key & Peele.

I guarantee it happens a lot less than you think. I can only think of some weird Hollywood type plots where it could even be dreamed of. There is nothing in it for the probation officer. Around here at least probation does not come into close contact with investigators. In 17 years as a police officer and a detective I have never heard of probation being brought into an active investigation. The only time they are called is as an afterthought when one of their clients violates. I can’t remember when I even met a probation officer last. It is a non-issue.

Good to know. Not surprisingly, sounds like Hollywood, doesn’t necessarily represent reality.

The article cites three cases in particular:

Note to mods: the quoted portions represent about 600 words out of 7000 in the full article.

Thanks. I appreciate that. Interesting, basic cases, you should be able to rely on statements from government officials.