While many people may think that undercover police in California are required to identify themselves as law enforcement, they are incorrect. Cops in California do not have to identify themselves as police officers.
Yes, some cities indeed mandate that cops must identify themselves in a public setting. However, no federal statute exists obligating them to reveal this information if asked by a member of the public.
If you find yourself the victim of a police officer hiding their identity, the attorneys at Simmrin Law Group can help. While police officers can legally lie about who they are, that does not grant them the right to abuse their power to harm others. Our criminal defense attorneys work with those victimized by this inherently flawed system to ensure that civil rights are protected, and justice is served.
What Is Entrapment?
It is understandable why someone might think that police officers lying about their identity to the public, even if they are directly asked, could be considered entrapment. But it is not a black-and-white situation. There is plenty of gray to consider.
For entrapment to occur, law enforcement needs to coerce or induce a law-abiding person into committing a crime they otherwise would not have committed. If this can be proven, the charges can disappear as quickly as they were filed. But a qualified criminal defense attorney is the person best suited to make that judgment.
It is important to note that the police officer accused of entrapment must pressure, harass, or threaten the victim to commit a crime. It cannot simply be a case of the cop providing the person with the opportunity to commit a crime. If all they did was give the opportunity, it is not entrapment.
If, on the other hand, the law enforcement official continuously threatens and intimidates the person into committing a crime and then arrests them for that crime, entrapment may be a viable defense.
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What Are Some Examples of Entrapment?
There are a variety of situations where entrapment may or may not occur. Below are two examples to help you better understand whether a situation counts as entrapment or not.
Denise is an undercover cop looking to catch someone in the act of paying for sex. To do this, she spots a guy named Chris walking down the street. She offers him “her services” for $500.
Chris is a cautious guy, so he says, “Are you a cop?” Denise replies, “Of course not!” Reassured, Chris agrees to pay her $500 for sex and is promptly thrown in the back of a police car for soliciting prostitution.
In this situation, Chris can not claim that entrapment occurred because Denise did not apply significant pressure to convince him to commit a crime. All she did was allow him to do so, and he acted on that opportunity.
Let us say that Denise, acting as an undercover cop, offers sex to another person, Frank. She says it will be $500 for “her services,” and Frank declines the offer. As he walks away, Denise follows him, begging and pleading for him to reconsider.
She does this for minutes on end until Frank gives in and agrees so that she will stop harassing him and making him feel uncomfortable. In this situation, entrapment may be a solid defense because of Denise’s pressure on Frank to commit the crime.
Both examples make one thing clear: cops can lie about being cops. It does not matter if they are in a uniform or plain clothes. They do not have to identify who they are, even if you ask them to do so. Therefore, it is always wise to avoid situations that put you in a compromising position because you never know – the person putting you up to it might arrest you.
What Do Government Agencies Have to Do with Entrapment?
The whole reason why entrapment law exists is to keep police officers and other public officials in check. It is a way to control their power, so they do not use it for unethical purposes.
An entrapment defense will not hold up against private citizens who coerce others to commit crimes. For example, if Tom convinces Jerry that it would be a great idea to rob a bank, and he harasses him until he does so, Jerry can not claim that Tom entrapped him. Why? Because tom is not a police officer or public official.
How Are Entrapment and Burden of Proof Connected?
It is permissible for cops to provide a person with the opportunity to commit a crime. But they cannot persuade a person to commit a crime in an overbearing way. Different states have different requirements regarding the burden of proof and entrapment.
California is an objective standard state, and the defendant must prove, with abundant evidence, that the law enforcement official engaged in entrapment. Other states, such as Florida, are subjective standard states where the requirements differ.
The biggest reason entrapment cases are so challenging is that the defendant needs to prove that the government agent in question acted in a way that should be considered entrapment. So, anyone who finds themselves the victim of entrapment is fighting an uphill battle to prove that they are innocent.
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How Can a California Criminal Defense Attorney Help Me?
Sometimes good people make mistakes. Other times they are roped into a dangerous situation by a manipulative law enforcement agent who bends the rules to get someone to commit a crime they otherwise would not have committed. This kind of behavior is not permissible, especially from those who serve the public and have sworn to protect us.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we are passionate about all the cases we handle. Rather than dwell on the past, we want to help you solve whatever legal problem you are facing so you can build a better future for yourself and your family. For a risk-free, confidential consultation, use our online form to schedule an appointment with us today.