Entrapment is a phrase often heard in movies but little understood. Entrapment occurs when a law enforcement officer induces someone into committing a crime they otherwise wouldn’t commit. And there are instances where this is considered legal, while it is illegal in others.
If you believe you have been entrapped by a parole officer, a transit cop, or any other law enforcer, you need a lawyer as soon as possible. Our team offers free consultations to help you get started on your case. In the meanwhile, here is what you need to know.
What Is and What Is Not Entrapment?
You cannot use entrapment in your defense if an officer only suggested you break the law. A judge will expect any regular citizen to resist the temptation to commit a crime. Entrapment occurs when a law enforcer uses force, such as harassment, threats, or even flattery, to induce a person into committing a crime.
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Can I Use Entrapment in My Defense?
Entrapment can help you dismiss the whole case; however, it must meet certain conditions. it prohibits law enforcers from:
- Operating criminal designs
- Implanting an innocent person’s mind with the idea of breaking the law
- Inciting an innocent person to commit a crime to prosecute them for it
That means a police officer cannot force you to commit a crime and then arrest you for it.
Is Entrapment Illegal?
Entrapment lies in a gray area. While it is not illegal, it is also not legal. The reason why it is not considered a crime is basically that no police officer or law enforcer will be prosecuted for it. Your attorney, on the other hand, can use it to your advantage if there are elements to prove they entrapped you.
What Are the Key Elements in Proving Entrapment?
To convict someone, prosecutors have the burden of proving them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, entrapment is known as an affirmative defense.
In other words, a defendant’s attorney must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a law enforcement officer is guilty. The defense must be able to prove at least these two things:
- A government officer induced the crime
- The accused didn’t have a prior intention to engage in crime
It is not entrapment if the officer simply suggests you break the law. Solicitation, tricks, or deceits are also not considered entrapment.
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How does a Jury Determine Entrapment?
A jury will look at the evidence, and then they must establish two things beyond a reasonable doubt to determine entrapment:
- Did the prosecutors prove all the elements of the crime?
- Did the state provide evidence that the defendant was not entrapped?
If the state cannot prove both elements, entrapment took place. The accused should not be found guilty of committing a crime.
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Entrapment vs. Sting Operations
Unfortunately, some public servants abuse their power and influence or provoke a crime for their own agenda. However, if they suspect someone but lack enough evidence to charge them, they can set up a sting operation, which does not fall under entrapment.
Entrapment is not legal, but sting operations, which seem very similar, are legal. The key to understanding the difference is in the Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Response. Which lays out that a sting operation involves:
- An opportunity of committing a crime, either created or exploited by the police
- Some type of deception by the law enforcers (like an undercover officer)
- A “climax operation” that ends up with the arrest of the suspects
- The operation is targeted at specific subjects or organizations and involves a particular crime type
This operation is commonly used to catch solicitors, drug offenders, white-collar criminals, prostitutes, or internet offenders.
Practical Examples of Entrapment
Legal definitions may not be enough to understand entrapment and how it applies to your situation. A couple of examples can help you better understand what entrapment is and what it is not.
Let’s say an officer stops you for a traffic violation, you both exchange words, and you feel threatened. In the middle of the discussion, the officer tells you: “Hit me, I dare you!” So you do. You are arrested for assaulting a police officer.
While the police officer told you to hit him, he did not force you. Since you acted on your will, this would not be considered entrapment.
Your neighbor is a cop and asks you to keep a suspicious package for him for a few weeks. He threatens you with being fined out of nowhere when you say no.
You may have been found in possession of a controlled substance, but since your neighbor used their power to threaten you into keeping it, this is illegal entrapment.
What to Do if You Were Entrapped and Face Charges
Unfortunately, anyone can fall victim to shady public servants. If you believe you or anyone you love is a victim of entrapment, the first step is to contact a lawyer.
Getting an attorney should always be the first step while facing any legal issue, no matter how small it seems. Contact a criminal defense lawyer who can answer your questions.