Get out of sting free 

Missoula police busted 10 employees of area businesses for selling alcohol to minors in a series of police stings Sept. 30, but one Montana lawyer says those employees should considering fighting the “unlawful transaction with a minor” citations.

Butte attorney Rick Anderson successfully defended 21-year-old Brian Smith last month after Smith was cited earlier this year in a similar sting. According to Anderson it took a jury all of 20 minutes to acquit Smith, finding he was a victim of police entrapment.

“I think [Smith’s acquittal] should send a message to law enforcement that they should change their tactics,” Anderson told the Independent this week.

According to the MPD, two officers and a 19-year-old Missoula woman visited 20 convenience stores and bars on a Friday night. The woman entered the establishments and attempted to purchase alcohol, and 10 of the 20 businesses sold it to her.

Anderson says the tactic of luring someone into selling alcohol to minors is unlawful.

“I do not condone underage drinking, and I understand the challenge police are facing in trying to curb underage drinking, but I think it’s wrong that people are ending up with a criminal record when they had no intent to commit a crime,” Anderson says.

A Butte jury agreed with Anderson that the police sting met the three elements establishing entrapment: 1) that the criminal intent or design to commit the crime originated in the mind of the law enforcement officer or informant; 2) that no criminal intent or design to commit the crime originated in the mind of the accused; and 3) that the law enforcement officer or undercover agent lured or induced the defendant into committing a crime they had no intention of committing.

It would cost more to hire a lawyer than to pay the $100 fine associated with the citation, but Anderson is giving his strategy away free; he recommends defendants contact Butte’s Clerk of Court to request a copy of his motion to dismiss the Smith case and supporting brief for a roadmap to fighting the charges themselves.

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