If your teenaged child is facing drug charges due to a school sting, you might consider fighting these charges, especially if the police engaged in behavior that amounts to entrapment. Most people are unaware of the deeper issues involved with these 21 Jump Street style operations.
What Constitutes Entrapment
When an undercover police officer threatens, coerces, or otherwise uses repugnant behavior to get a person to commit a crime, this constitutes entrapment. However, police can request a citizen to do something, and may lie to them, to get them to engage in unlawful behavior that subjects them to a criminal charge. Coercion is a factor when an officer continually works on or harasses a subject to commit an act, over a period of time.
To use this defense successfully, you would need to prove that your teenager was being coerced into a drug offense by a police officer, and you would also need to show that he/she would not have done the act otherwise. This is called an objective standard (used in California), but some states (like Florida) also have a subjective standard that you have to deal with. This means you also need to prove that your child is not predisposed to committing this crime.
Why School Drug Stings Are Controversial
Sometimes school districts ask local law enforcement for help to deal with the drug problem in their schools, and stings are offered as one way of dealing with it, but these can be problematic for several reasons.
Some feel the tactics used may be exploitative of the accused, since youths are inexperienced and more open to emotional/social manipulation. These police actions may also create trust issues between students and school officials.
Another problem is that youths with intellectual and mental deficits have been unfairly targeted in some sting operations. This has brought up a question of motivation for some law enforcement departments when using these methods in schools. Is it merely to garner a large amount of attention and publicity when high numbers of teens are arrested?
Many school districts now forbid stings in their schools because they have not been proven to be effective, and they can actually harm students in the long-term. Also, there is the very real danger in some instances, police may not stop something dangerous (involving narcotics) happening soon enough, because they don't want to ruin the undercover operation.
Troubling Examples of Entrapment
In one famous example from California, a youth with an intellectual disability, and a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome (a form of autism), was continually subject to requests from an undercover policeman to buy marijuana for him and to also sell him some of the youth's narcotic prescribed medicines. The policeman, a man named Daniel, befriended Jesse Snodgrass and also worked on his sympathies by complaining to Jesse about how he needed the drugs to cope with a bad situation at home.
Jesse eventually did obtain small amounts of marijuana for Dan, but he drew the line at selling him his medications, so Dan withdrew his friendship. Later Jesse was arrested, but his parents fought the charges and also successfully sued the school.
In Florida, a female undercover police officer coerced an eighteen year old high school senior to buy her drugs because he had developed a crush on her. This resulted in Justin Laboy receiving a felony drug charge and losing eligibility to join the armed forces, as he had planned to do after graduation.
In an in-depth Rolling Stone article about the case of Jesse Snodgrass, the California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Lynne Lyman, says that parents and children often do not fight entrapment cases because of the stigma and shame involved. Many people end up settling for plea agreements to be able to move on quickly.
A girl named Madalyn, was expelled along with others in the California sting. She only had 3 classes left to graduate, but ended up getting a job as receptionist instead of going back to school. Students with drug charges often cannot return to a regular school in their district, and may have to go to an alternative institution, or get a GED. Many do not graduate at all, and thus face more problems making a living as an adult.
So if your child is facing drug charges due to a sting operation, you should talk to the other parents whose children are involved. If unlawful, unethical, and indiscriminate tactics were being used, consider fighting the charges vigorously. You will need the services of a criminal defense lawyer, such as someone from Alexander & Associates, P.C., to help your child prepare for a successful defense.