Understanding Entrapment in Criminal Defense

The defense of entrapment in criminal cases is often unclear to many. It occurs when law enforcement officers persuade someone to commit a crime they wouldn’t normally commit. While it can be a strong defense, knowing when and how to use it is important.

This post aims to clarify the complexities of entrapment in criminal law. It will explain what entrapment is, its consequences, and what you should think about if you’re ever in a situation involving entrapment.

The Legal Definition of Entrapment

Entrapment is a defense in criminal cases where the defendant argues they only committed the crime because a government official pressured or forced them to do so. The defense claims that the crime would not have happened without this pressure.

Proving entrapment can be tough because the defendant must show that the idea to commit the crime came from the government and that the defendant wasn’t already willing to commit it. It is also important to note that entrapment can only occur with a government official, such as an FBI official or a police officer, not a private individual. Also, because it’s an affirmative defense, the defendant must prove entrapment happened.

Utilizing the Entrapment Defense in Court

Entrapment is often misunderstood. While some believe it can only be claimed if the police were involved in making you commit a crime, this is not always the case. Entrapment is also a valid defense when police misuse their authority to coerce you into committing a crime that you wouldn’t have otherwise committed.

According to Texas Penal Code Section 8.06, entrapment can be a valid defense if:

  1. The law enforcement officer induced you to do so.
  2. Someone engaged in criminal behavior has no predisposition to commit the crime.
  3. The officer used persuasion or similar methods, and
  4. These methods were likely to make someone commit the crime.

Standards for Judging the Entrapment Defense

States typically use either the objective or subjective test to decide if entrapment happened in a criminal case.

Regarding the objective element of the entrapment defense in Texas, the law forbids actions by law enforcement like urging someone to commit a crime based on extreme need, sympathy, or offers of large sums of money. These actions should make an unwilling person commit the crime, not someone already willing to do so.

Meanwhile, subjective entrapment focuses on whether the defendant was already likely to commit a crime, regardless of any inducement by a government agent. This means the defendant is responsible for their actions, even if the government agent encouraged them.

This standard is tough for defendants to argue, especially if they have a criminal record.

How Does Entrapment Happen?

In entrapment cases, a crime happens because of actions like:

  • Coercion: Making someone believe not doing something would harm them or someone they care about.
  • Fraud: Intentionally lying to make someone act in a certain way.
  • Harassment: Behavior that causes alarm or distress without a valid reason.
  • Inducement: Persuading someone to do something by offering them something valuable.
  • Threats: Expressing or imply intentions to harm or cause fear.

Non-entrapment scenarios

Many are familiar with entrapment, but its use as a legal defense is often misunderstood. Some people think anyone arrested in a police setup or sting operation can claim entrapment. To qualify, a defendant must prove that a law enforcement agent induced them to commit the offense. This requires demonstrating that the officer aggressively pushed the defendant into breaking the law.

Examples of situations that do not constitute entrapment include:

  • Agreeing to pay an undercover agent for prostitution.
  • Being caught in speed traps where speed limits change suddenly.
  • Being lied to by an undercover officer about their affiliation with law enforcement.
  • Being offered drugs by an undercover officer.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

Understanding the complexities of entrapment in criminal defense is crucial for anyone facing such circumstances. While it can be a strong defense, its successful use requires demonstrating that the idea and impetus for the crime came from the government and that the defendant wasn’t predisposed to committing it.

Given the intricacies and challenges of proving entrapment, seeking the guidance of a criminal defense attorney is essential. An experienced attorney can assess the details of your case, determine if entrapment is a viable defense, and navigate the legal process effectively on your behalf. Protecting your rights and understanding your legal options is paramount when facing entrapment allegations.