Prosecutors and police routinely employ misrepresentation and deceit in undercover investigations. In cases ranging from drug distribution, prostitution, and sexual misconduct with minors to organized crime and terrorism, police and those cooperating with police deceive suspects and their cohorts about their identities and their intentions in order to gain information to help uncover past crimes and thwart future crimes. Frequently, such deceit helps reveal the truth about what criminals do and think.

May defense lawyers and investigators working for them employ similar tactics? Or should prosecutors be the only lawyers allowed to direct and supervise investigatory deception? In recent years, both debate and a divergence of views on this question have emerged. In this column we examine that debate, the arguments raised on both sides of it, and how various jurisdictions have answered this question.


Legal Profession, Ethics/Professional responsibility, Investigations

Publication Date


Document Type


Place of Original Publication

Criminal Justice

Publication Information

25 (3) Criminal Justice 36 (2010)


COinS Peter A. Joy Faculty Bio