Reverse Undercover Operations, Sentencing Entrapment and Sentencing Manipulation


“Reverse undercover” is a generic term for any variation of the traditional role of undercover personnel as the “buyer” of an illegal product or service such that the role is one of seller of illegal products or services. For example, a DEA undercover agent becomes a drug dealer instead of occupying the traditional role of drug buyer. The upside down nature of the reverse stings allows the undercover agent to offer a suspect the opportunity to engage in criminal activity that exposes him to the outer limits of the US Sentencing Guidelines. It’s known as sentencing entrapment.

Sentencing Entrapment

Sentencing entrapment is defined as “entrapment of a defendant who is predisposed to commit a lesser offense but who is unlawfully induced to commit a more serious offense that carries a more severe sentence. It is also referred to as “sentencing manipulation.” The defense should make the argument that during the undercover investigation, the police manipulated the defendant into a course of criminal conduct that would allow prosecutors to charge an offense that on conviction would result in a higher mandatory sentence.


The difference between sentencing entrapment and entrapment is that entrapment is a complete defense to the crime charged. The defense of sentencing entrapment may only lower a defendant’s sentence.


The United States Sentencing Guidelines offer an example of sentencing entrapment: “if in a reverse sting the court finds that the government agent set a price for the controlled substance that was substantially below the market value of the controlled substance, thereby leading to the defendant’s purchase of a significantly greater quantity of the controlled substance than his available resources would have allowed him to purchase except for the artificially low price set by the government agent, a downward departure in sentence may be warranted.”


Dennis G. Fitzgerald is available to review your case for evidence of sentencing entrapment or other agent misconduct.




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