I've a somewhat related question- Are police allowed to conduct an undercover investigation of private property without a warrant? For example I know that if you invite an officer into your home they are allowed to use any evidence they happen to see against you, something which they couldn't do so if they entered without your consent without a warrant.
But does inviting a officer pretending to be someone else inside require a warrant on their part? Personally I've no real legal knowledge of this area. I ask because this case seems somewhat like an undercover investigation.
It revolves around the issue of probable cause
, which is one of the trickier (as in "it all depends") areas of law. It's particularly problematic in the USA because laws can vary from State to State. And Federal law adds an additional layer of complexity to the mix. (It often comes as a complete surprise to most US citizens when they discover they have different, and occasionally contradictory, civil rights under federal as opposed to state law.*) Furthermore, social conditions and politics also have a much larger influence on the ways laws get enforced than most people would like to admit. Any legal system reflects the beliefs and concerns of society at large. In times of crisis or change, the legal system can exhibit arbitrary or erratic interpretation and enforcement. Especially at the "street level" where most encounters with the police occur.
While it's always dangerous to make general statements, there's a pretty good video that provides enough basics and recommendations to at least get you thinking about the process and ramifications of being arrested, and how to protect your rights should you find yourself in that unfortunate situation.
When you can spare about 45 minutes, check out the video Busted: the Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters
courtesy of FlexYourRights.org It's up on YouTube for free viewing if you're so inclined.
*Note: No joke. In 1951, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were tried and executed
by the United States government for espionage.
Although this famous case raises questions on several levels, what is interesting for the purposes of this discussion, is how two people could be sentenced to death by a federal
court based on evidence that would not have been sufficient to even file charges against them in a New York State court.