Explanation of a "Controlled Buy"

A Glimpse Into a "Controlled Buy" Analysis

One of the ways the police will attempt to prove a case of trafficking in a controlled substance against a criminal suspect is by conducting "controlled buys". A controlled buy is when a cooperating witness or an undercover police officer purchases illegal items, typically a controlled substance, from a criminal suspect.

Evaluating the Strengths and Weaknesses of a "Controlled Buy" Case

In preparing a defense for a controlled-buy case, there are several questions that your lawyer must ask to determine how strong the case is against a client. The following is a sample of a some of the questions and resulting analysis:

  • Was the alleged controlled-buy executed by an undercover police officer or was the controlled buy conducted by a confidential informant? If the alleged controlled-buy was executed by a confidential informant, then most likely the confidential informant will have substantial credibility issues at trial. It is very likely that the confidential informant has a substantial criminal history of his or her own, and the confidential informant is working off his or her own criminal charges. This can establish a substantial bias which will provide an attack of one of the Commonwealth's most important witnesses.
  • If the alleged controlled buy were executed by the confidential informant, did the police officers actually witness the alleged transaction? Often times, the alleged controlled buy will occur in an enclosed setting such as a residence or a vehicle.
  • If the controlled buy occurred in a residence, was it a house or an apartment? If it was in an apartment complex, then perhaps the police officers did not even witness what apartment the confidential informant entered.
  • If the alleged controlled buy occurred in a vehicle, was the vehicle registered to my client, or was it registered to another individual? If the officers did not see the occupant of the vehicle and the vehicle was not registered to the accused, then that can be an additional attack of the Commonwealth's case.

Recorded Evidence in Controlled Buy Situations

In most alleged controlled buys the investigation is recorded. It must be determined if the recording was video or audio. If the recording was audio, it must be carefully reviewed to see if there was any verbal reference to drugs. It is possible the recording may only sound like a general conversation between two people that never mentions drugs or money.

Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Shannon D. Sexton

The above is a sample of the multiple questions that need to be answered in order to build a complete defense for a client who has been accused of drug trafficking. It is important to have an attorney with the experience, ability, and thoroughness to seek these strategies in the course of your representation. If you have been charged with a crime, contact me online or call me at 859-431-9999.


The Covington, Kentucky defense firm of Shannon D. Sexton, Attorney at Law, provides criminal defense representation to the people of Kenton County, Campbell County, and Boone County, including the communities of Covington, Dayton, Ludlow, Latonia, Fort Mitchell, Fort Wright, Villa Hills, Erlanger Crescent Springs, Alexandria, Bellevue, Fort Thomas, Florence, and Highland Heights and students at Northern Kentucky University (NKU).