An undercover officer is a police officer who disguises themselves as something else in order to get closer to those suspected of illegal activity. For instance, he or she may pose as a person looking to buy drugs in order to then make a drug bust.
One thing that people sometimes complain about is that this can feel a lot like entrapment. Don’t the police have to be honest with you? Is undercover work causing you to commit a crime? If so, isn’t it illegal to be arrested on those grounds?
The two are very different. Entrapment is the act of “originating a criminal design” and then getting someone to carry out a crime that they wouldn’t have done otherwise. For instance, maybe you’ve never sold drugs in your life. If an officer comes up to you with a bag of cocaine and proposes that you help them sell it, and then they arrest you when you agree, that’s entrapment. They made you commit the crime and then arrested you for it, which is not what the police are supposed to do.
Undercover work happens when they already believe illegal activities are taking place. If you’re already selling cocaine in a certain neighborhood and an officer poses as a buyer, they’re just collecting evidence. You would have made the sale either way, so they didn’t influence you. That is not entrapment.
Suffice to say, the lines between the two can get a bit confusing. If you get arrested and you think it happened in an unfair or illegal manner, be sure you are well aware of the legal options you have.