When Controlled Buys Spin Out of Control

Andrew Sadek, a 20-year-old college student with zero criminal history, sold a small amount of marijuana (about $80 worth) to a narcotics officer. Shortly after his arrest he was in an interrogation room being threatened by police with 40 years of prison time (an outright lie). In that room, terrified and exhausted, he was told that if he made some “controlled buys” for the police, “a lot of this could go away.” Six months later he was found dead with a bullet in his head.

Rachel Hoffman, a 23-year-old Florida State graduate, was threatened by police with 10-years of prison after being caught with five ounces of marijuana and a handful of pills. Frightened, she agreed to work as a confidential informant in exchange for “leniency.” Two days after assisting police, Rachel’s bullet-filled body was found in a ditch.

What is a “controlled buy?”

The term “controlled buy” has been created by law-enforcement to replace the more realistic (and dangerous-sounding) term, “confidential informant.” Which sounds more dangerous to you: “We would like you to make a few controlled buys for us?” or, “We would like you to wear a wire, meet with a known drug-dealer, and be a confidential informant for us?” And, while the informant is “promised” anonymity, what happens when the drug-dealer’s case goes to trial and they have the right to learn your identity as part of the discovery process? This is exactly what will happen and is another reason that law-enforcement prefers the sanitized term, “controlled buy.”

This practice is so dangerous that it has been examined and featured in an episode of 60 Minutes.

Empty (and unnecessary) promises

Increasingly, in suburbs across North Texas, young people (many still in high school) are being pressured into making these “controlled buys” in exchange for a release from punishment that may never have even existed in the first place. In fact, I have gone into a local police station, stopped an interrogation, and escorted my client from the premises after he signed a so-called “contract” to make three controlled buys. Importantly, he never made one controlled buy, nor was he ever convicted of any crime whatsoever. So, if he had put himself in danger by wearing a wire and meeting with drug-dealers, he would have been doing so in exchange for absolutely nothing.

While obviously every case is different, there a number of different paths that someone can take after being arrested for a drug offense in Texas that do not result in any jail time, or even a conviction. Oftentimes there is a clear route to some form of a dismissal of the case. And not one of these paths involves wearing a wire and buying drugs for the police. However, these outcomes are not shared in an interrogation room in the middle of the night.

As is often the case, with tragedy comes change. In Florida, Rachel’s Law now exists so that young people are not put into the same situation that cost Rachel her life. In Texas, we do not yet have these regulations. Certainly, as soon as someone dies as a result of a “controlled buy” here in Texas, our laws will change too, with the new law undoubtedly named after the headline-making deceased. Do not be the person whom Texas’ eventual confidential informant law is named after.

If you have been arrested for Possession of Marijuana, or any other controlled substance, you should immediately hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact my office for a free consultation by calling 972-369-0577.