The Most Illegal Things Detective Stabler Has Done On Law & Order

Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), or "UnStabler" as some "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" fans refer to him, holds a special place in the hearts of most viewers. A hole which was left in those hearts after his seemingly abrupt departure in 2011. After 12 seasons of getting especially heinous sex offenders off the streets of New York City with his partner, Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), his storyline came to an end in the Season 12 episode titled "Smoked." 

Fans were stunned when Christopher Meloni decided to exit the show. Even though their characters never crossed that professional thin blue line, the chemistry and companionship between Meloni and Hargitay had viewers shipping them for years. Meloni was a staple on the show from the beginning and his storylines were always compelling. His character, an ex-Marine who was dedicated to his family, would go to the ends of the Earth to protect the people he loved. 

Stabler was complicated and troubled, with his own demons to slay. He cared deeply for each victim he came across, which worked for him as well as against him. When the cases hit a little too close to home, Stabler was quick to forget that his badge wasn't a license to be judge, juror, and executioner.

What does Elliot Stabler fantasize about?

Elliot Stabler feels what he feels when he feels it. Often, in the interrogation room with one of these criminals, what he feels is blind hot rage. During a department mandated psychiatric evaluation in Season 1, Episode 22, Stabler actually admitted to fantasies of murdering the pedophiles he's tasked with apprehending. (That's probably not the time or place, but you do you El.) 

His tactics have been called into question on more than one occasion (like a lot), getting him suspended or visits to the department psychologist. For the most part, he plays by the rules, but there have been plenty of times where his aggression has gotten the better of him. We the audience always know when it's coming. When Stabler gets quiet and starts to unbutton and then roll up his sleeves, things are about to get real. He has slapped, throat chopped, headlocked, and snatched up many a "perp" in order to get his point across. 

Now, his interrogation tactics aren't always physical. Stabler has a way of playing smooth mind games with these sex offenders as well, making them believe he is actually on their side. But mind games aren't really illegal, are they? One could argue that every time Stabler roughed up any one of these criminals, it counts as police misconduct. However, paperwork and internal investigations don't make for good TV does it?

When did Elliot Stabler go too far?

Usually Olivia Benson or one of the other members of the elite squad are there to pull him back from the brink of insanity. However, there have been a few times when he took things way too far. One of the most illegal moments in his history happens in a Season 10 episode, "Confession." 

In the episode, Elliot Stabler investigates an online pedophile named Jack Berlin. Upon their first meeting, Stabler calls him a "steaming bag of crap that I would love to shove down a hole." Berlin does his best to antagonize Stabler for the entire brief conversation they have. During the investigation, Stabler recognizes his daughter's school photo on Berlin's website that caters to predators. Remember that blind hot rage we talked about? Stabler quietly sneaks to Berlin's apartment and kicks the door in. 

The rest of the SVU squad arrive in time to see Berlin bloodied and semi conscious on the floor, as a disheveled Stabler frantically tries to remove his daughter's image from the website. Berlin clearly states that he wants to press charges. There is no mention of any legal actions being taken, but Captain Cragen puts Stabler on unpaid leave until all Berlin's "bruises go away."

What kind of cop is Stabler now?

After a ten year absence from the "Law and Order" universe, we were finally blessed with the return of Elliot Stabler. In April 2021, Stabler returned to "SVU" in the appropriately titled episode, "Return of the Prodigal Son." This is a crossover episode used to introduce the new Dick Wolf spin off, "Law and Order: Organized Crime," centered mostly around Stabler. 

In "Organized Crime," we see Stabler dealing with the murder of his wife and moral compass, Kathy. Maybe it's personal growth or maybe because of the climate we are living in and police violence is all too real in 2022, but we see Stabler as a tad more calm in "Organized Crime." 

After living overseas for the past decade, Stabler finds a new home with the organized crime special task force. Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott), leader of one of New York's most powerful crime syndicates, has all but admitted to being responsible for Kathy's death. Wheatley is so rich, so powerful, and so connected that he just keeps slipping through the legal system's cracks. Wheatley is Stabler's nemesis and Stabler will stop at nothing until he gets justice or vengeance for his wife's murder.

Will Stabler ever get his anger under control?

Many of Elliot Stabler's actions fall under questionable, but the most illegal happens during Season 2 episode, "As Iago Is To Othello." In order to stop a cyber attack, the task force has surveillance on Richard Wheatley's ex wife Angela and two detectives are posing as her neighbors. While the task force has a specific objective in mind, Stabler's main objective doesn't match. Stabler asks one of the detectives to grab a pair of Angela's underwear from the apartment. While that detective straight up says no, the other detective eagerly agrees to help.

Stabler starts in with his mind games on Wheatley by making him believe that he has a sexual relationship with Angela, who Wheatley is trying to win back. After Stabler discovers that Wheatley is using the date that Kathy died as a password (ouch), he takes his stolen panties and straight up ambushes him in an elevator. An assault on a private citizen, Wheatley shouts through a bloodied nose. Broken laws aside, this is one of the best elevators fights in TV history. 

It seems Wheatley isn't even close to being done with Stabler and vice versa. So, stay tuned. It's quite possible there will be much more illegal behavior from our beloved hot tempered NYPD detective. Even though his tactics are questionable, fans are overjoyed for the return of Elliot Stabler to our Thursday night lineup. There are plenty of crossovers to help satisfy the Bensler crowd and maybe, just maybe, we'll get an answer to will they, won't they. That is if Stabler doesn't land himself in jail first. Dun-Dun!