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Former Assistant District Attorney
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney

What is entrapment?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2020 | Federal Crimes

If the government charges you with a crime, they should establish that you committed the crime of your own free will. However, in some cases law enforcement may go too far. Instead of simply gathering evidence that a crime has occurred, they may induce you to commit the offense. If this happens to you, the government may have entrapped you.

The Cornell Law School explains that people charged with a crime may offer an entrapment defense to the charge. If the government has caused you to commit a crime, a court should not find you guilty of the charge.

Defining entrapment

Law enforcement may entrap a person because they feel they cannot gather sufficient evidence from criminal parties to establish their culpability in a crime. So police or other law enforcement officers may take steps to encourage parties to go through with a criminal act. This may include inducing a person to sell drugs or other illegal goods.

Sometimes law enforcement, suspecting a public official is guilty of corruption, will set up a situation to induce the official to commit a crime. This may take the form of offering money or something of value as a bribe. If the official goes through with the crime, a state authority or the federal government may criminally charge the official.

Using entrapment as a defense

If you believe you are in an entrapment situation, you may argue in court that you would have never committed the crime had law enforcement not encouraged or even forced you to commit the act. The basis for entrapment rests on a number of legal doctrines. These doctrines include your rights under the Due Process Clause and your protection against the misconduct of law enforcement.

Demonstrating entrapment

To validate an entrapment defense, the court will likely examine your claim through a two step approach. First, the court will determine whether a government agent induced the commission of the crime. Secondly, the court will look at whether you had a predisposition to commit the crime in question. The prosecution may argue that you were willing to go through with the crime if the opportunity ever presented itself.

This is a crucial stage in establishing entrapment. The prosecution will likely try to cast doubts on your character to prove you would have gone through with the crime anyway. However, the prosecution must prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. If your legal team shows that you would have never committed a crime had the government not intervened, it could result in acquittal or a dismissal of the charges.