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What Is Police Entrapment & Is It Illegal?

Entrapment is an affirmative defense to criminal charges that could help get a defendant’s case dismissed altogether. Entrapment prohibits government agents such as law enforcement from:

  • originating a criminal design; and
  • implanting in an innocent person’s mind the inclination to commit a crime; and
  • inducing the commission of the crime so the government can prosecute such person.

In other words, entrapment typically occurs when law enforcement agents induce an innocent person to commit a crime they otherwise wouldn’t commit. Common entrapment techniques include persuasion, threats, harassment, and fraud. The opportunity to commit a crime does not constitute entrapment. While it may seem easy to identify entrapment, the reality is, it’s not that simple.

What Are Some Examples of Entrapment?

Police entrapment can occur in a variety of ways. Tactics such as pressure, intimidation, and fraud play a significant role in these scenarios. Examples of entrapment include:

  • Pressuring a person to illegally sell their prescription drugs by claiming you have no money and will die without the drugs
  • Repeatedly harassing someone via phone, mail, etc. to shoplift a laptop for your “school studies”
  • Threatening to expose a person’s love affair if they don’t sell you drugs
  • Demanding a driver to run a red light so you can pull them over for texting, and ticketing them for running a red light once you pull them over
  • Promising someone you will pay their college tuition if they illicitly sell you an ounce of marijuana

Is Entrapment Illegal?

Entrapment is not a crime, but it’s not allowed, either. It is only an affirmative defense to criminal charges. Although many people understandably ask themselves, “Is entrapment illegal in the US?” the bottom line is the police won’t go to jail or get in serious legal trouble for entrapping someone. The defendant, on the other hand, can use this defense to their advantage if the circumstances of their case permit.

What Are the Two Key Elements of Entrapment?

A defendant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that an officer is guilty of entrapment. To convict someone of a crime, prosecutors have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty.

The “preponderance of evidence” standard only requires the defendant to show that entrapment occurred more likely than not. On the other hand, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard is a much higher burden of proof, requiring the prosecution to convince the jury that they are virtually certain of the defendant’s guilt.

With this in mind, a valid entrapment defense has 2 elements:

  • Government inducement of the crime; and
  • the defendant’s lack of predisposition to engage in the criminal conduct.

Solicitation, schemes, deceit, tricks, and pretenses are NOT considered inducement. Rather, the defendant must show that the government, at the very least, persuaded or mildly coerced them into committing the crime.

However, even if a defendant proves they were induced, they could still get convicted if prosecutors find the defendant was predisposed to the commission of the offense. But predisposition does not equal intent. For instance, just because a person is predisposed, or inclined, to break the law, that doesn’t mean they intend to.

A person could have the intent to commit a crime, yet be entrapped and use that as an affirmative defense. A person who is predisposed to commit a criminal act CANNOT use entrapment in their defense, even if they never commit a crime before. This is because being readily available to commit a crime and taking advantage of the opportunity when it arises is NOT considered entrapment. As we discussed already, the opportunity to commit a crime does not mean entrapment.

To understand whether a defendant was entrapped, a jury must do the following:

  • Determine if prosecutors have proved all of the elements of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • If they did prove such elements, consider whether the State has proved by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant was not entrapped.
  • If the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime charged and that the defendant was not entrapped, the defendant is guilty
  • If the State has not proved one or more elements of the crime charged or has not disproved entrapment, the defendant is NOT guilty

Do you believe you were entrapped? Are you facing criminal accusations in Iowa City or Davenport? Discover the difference 50+ years of combined experience can do for your case by contacting us at (319) 499-5524!

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