Bruce Hay


This Article focuses on two distinct functions of sting operations. One is the informational, or investigatory, function of identifying individuals who are engaged in (or likely to engage in) criminal activity. The second is the behavioral function of deterring individuals from engaging in (independent) criminal activity: the threat of being caught in a sting may scare individuals away from genuine criminal opportunities that would otherwise seem appealing. Though complementary in some respects, these functions are also in some tension with each other. A sting operation that does not serve informational purposes may be good for deterrent purposes, and vice versa. Their problematic relation is a main theme of the Article. The Article is organized as follows. Part I is a general overview of the nature of sting operations, their purposes, their potential advantages over other enforcement methods, and the dangers they pose. Parts II and III analyze, respectively, the informational and deterrent effects of sting operations. Part IV considers the relation between the informational and deterrent effects, emphasizing the tensions between them. Part V attempts a model of a socially desirable sting operation, balancing its informational and/or deterrent value against the danger of entrapping otherwise-innocent individuals. 6 The model creates a framework for identifying desirable sting operations, a framework that is necessarily very general in character. To apply it to particular cases would require knowledge of parameters whose value is an empirical question the Article does not attempt to quantify. Part VI briefly discusses some general applications to entrapment doctrine. Part VII concludes.

Included in

Law Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.