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Drug charges dropped due to questionable enforcement efforts

It is no secret that federal and state authorities dedicate vast amounts of time, energy and money to enforcing drug laws. Correctional facilities are overwhelmed by people who have been convicted of drug offenses and subjected to mandatory minimums thanks to these extensive efforts.

However, sometimes these efforts cross the line between aggressive and unlawful. For instance, federal prosecutors recently ended up dropping drug conspiracy charges against 27 people after it was determined that the tactics used to arrest them were controversial and may be considered entrapment.

According to reports, the 27 people were arrested in separate incidences after allegedly agreeing to sell illegal drugs. However, they had done so under false pretenses and at the urging of undercover officers.

The sting operation consisted of undercover officers claiming that there were enormous amounts of valuable drugs being stored at a stash house. When the officers got someone to follow them to the stash house, that person was arrested.

The concerns raised about this tactic are numerous. To begin with, neither the house nor the drugs were real. Additionally, there are claims that these stash house operations are often executed in areas of high minority and poor populations, prompting allegations of racial bias. Finally, the fact that the officers were promising huge sums of money to people who were often in financial despair made it "a disreputable tactic," according to one judge.

Even though enforcement agencies largely defend this tactic and their efforts, the U.S. attorney's office found it more appropriate to drop the charges rather than argue against potential claims of entrapment and bias.

This is an important example of how important it is to not only scrutinize police procedures, but also to fight to protect the rights of the people who become victims of an overly aggressive system. Had the charges in these cases not been dropped, each of the people who were arrested could have been facing a minimum of 10 years in prison as a result of sting efforts that are still considered quite controversial.

Source: ABC News, "Federal Prosecutors Drop Dozens of Stash House Sting Charges," Michael Tarm, Jan. 30, 2015

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