Undercover Government Stings

I just finished watching a program on the corruption of Las Vegas. During the program they showed some undercover footage of an F.B.I. agent engaging in a drug buy. They also showed the city getting involved in undercover work as well. This got me to thinking.

With all the secrecy involved in undercover operations, and the fact that few people know when and where these stings take place, isn’t it possible that the two, or the same, agencies have nailed each other at illegal activities during their sting? That is, has a police undercover drug buy operations ever interfered with an undercover drug sell operation where both agencies arrested each other? What happens? Both could legally arrest each other for either selling or buying, but both are government agencies.

I know it’s happened, but I can’t remember the details. I’m pretty sure it was in NYC. Probably about 5-10 years ago.

only once? I’d think it could happen more often.

To add to the OP, considering some of the deeper and far reaching stings that take place from time to time, I can’t believe other agencies haven’t been caught up and eventually involved in the bigger sting. What are the legalities of this? Is it, hey, I’m undercover, leave me alone? Or do they bitch and moan until one pays off the other?

Just some thoughts and a way to move beyond the crappy newbie status.

An undercover law enforcement agent buying drugs or carrying drugs is not committing a crime, since he lacks the necessary mens rea, or guilty mind, necessary to complete the crime.

There have been several publicized incidents (and, undoubtedly, many more not-so-publicized incidents) of two law enforcement agencies running into each other. I seem to recall that in the Nixon years, the ATF and the Customs service actually got into a gun battle when a sting operation went rapidly south, with both agencies trying to swarm in and arrest the other’s operatives.

The OP asks if it’s legal for law enforcement officers to “arrest each other”. Since an arrest must be predicated on probable cause, and since the moment it became clear that the intended arrestee was a law enforcement officer, the arresting officer would know, or should know, that there was no crime. Probable cause is a common-sense concept, that takes into account the totality of the circumstances and all facts that the arresting officer knows or should know.

In general, then, I would venture that such arrests would not happen, and would not be sustained if they did occur.

  • Rick