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Anti-drug trafficking efforts raise serious legal concerns

In the state of Connecticut and elsewhere, crime prevention efforts are a major priority. That's why the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) makes efforts to combat federal drug crimes by preventing them from ever taking place. Conducting campaigns in several major cities and more than 22 states around the country, the ATF orchestrates elaborate drug sting operations to catch leading suspects. Though, some of the agency's tactics force many prosecutors, judges, and criminal defense attorneys to question their legality.  

For years the ATF has been carrying out incredibly detailed operations that involve singling out individuals connected to various drug rings. Undercover agents approach these suspects and introduce them to the chance to rob their bosses of a given amount of cocaine. Suspects are then arrested when they arrive to carry out the fictional robbery. A lot of money and resources go into these stings, and a lot of legal questions are raised in the process.

Many have noted that the line between entrapping an innocent person and investigating the actions of a criminal suspect blurs when considering the intricate scenarios the ATF devices to attract potential offenders. Furthermore, undercover agents even have the ability to influence the severity of prospective convictions by deciding how much cocaine is involved in the make-believe drug theft scheme.

In less than one decade, these types of drug operations have resulted in at least 13 individuals being shot, some fatally. Furthermore, non-violent offenders are being targeted too. More than 10 percent of suspects arrested last year didn’t have a prior serious conviction on their record.

Given that the ATF has the means to target suspects, dictate the conditions of drug stings, and manipulate mandatory sentence terms, one must question how such authority may affect the rights of offenders and non-offenders alike.

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