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Botched arrest illustrates problems with controlled buys

Many people might think that a controlled drug buy is a slam dunk for law enforcement. For those who do not know, a controlled buy is one set up by police using either an undercover officer or a confidential informant, oftentimes someone who is getting paid or who is trying to get leniency for pending charges.

Usually, police will videotape or record the drug transaction and carefully document the sale by a variety of means, all with the aim of getting a conviction over an alleged dealer for various drug crimes.

However, as a recent case that happened in rural Ohio not far from Cincinnati illustrates, controlled buys are not failsafe, and they can lead to serious mistakes if not outright injustice.

In this recent case, one man, a married father of six children, was arrested and detained overnight on an arrest warrant for drug charges he clearly had not been involved with. He since had to leave the state and now lives hundreds of miles away, as he never felt like he could escape the suspicion in his community that he had been dealing in drugs.

What actually happened was that a man recorded allegedly selling a controlled substance gave the name of the father instead of his actual name. Even though this suspect was at one point in custody, police never located him, nor made any meaningful efforts to, until after the young man had died of a drug overdose himself.

Granted that not all cases involve quite such extreme mistakes, this story still illustrates that the fact a person is accused of drug crimes because of a so-called controlled drug buy should not be considered indisputable evidence of guilt. Legal options may be available for that person's defense.

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