If you’re a big fan of true crime documentaries, maybe you’ve heard the term “entrapment” get thrown around before. Or maybe you’re facing criminal charges because you feel that a police officer “framed you” or “induced you” to commit a crime. In either case, you may be wondering: what is entrapment? In simple terms, entrapment occurs when an undercover agent “induces” a defendant to commit a crime. A valid entrapment defense can result in the dismissal of criminal charges and cases, especially with strong legal representation.
If you believe that entrapment played a heavy role in your criminal charge, Baton Rouge criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Ossie Brown can help you. We have extensive experience and knowledge of entrapment law. We can carefully analyze the details of your case and determine whether or not government inducement of criminal activity was at play. Call 225-343-1111 to schedule a free consultation with our legal team today.
What is Entrapment?
Entrapment is a valid legal defense that occurs when law enforcement officials or government agents induce a normally law abiding person to commit a crime that they may not have committed otherwise. Only government agents can commit entrapment, not a private citizen. If a defendant and their legal team can prove that police entrapment occurred, and that they would not have committed a criminal act without inducement, then their criminal charges can be dropped entirely.
“Induce” is an important verb here. According to U.S. entrapment law, “mere solicitation to commit a crime is not inducement. Nor does the government’s use of artifice, stratagem, pretense, or deceit establish inducement. Rather, inducement requires a showing of at least persuasion or mild coercion, pleas based on need, sympathy, or friendship, or extraordinary promises of the sort ‘that would blind the ordinary person to his legal duties.’”
Entrapment vs. Sting Operations
Many people think that entrapment and sting operations are the same thing, and while they do share similarities, the two concepts are different.
Firstly, entrapment is illegal, while undercover sting operations are legal, although very controversial. A sting operation occurs when an undercover police officer creates a deceptive operation in order to catch someone engaging in criminal activity. Generally, undercover agents will pretend to be the suspect’s “partner in crime” or victim in order to gather evidence about the criminal activity.
Instead of police officers “inducing” someone to commit crimes – like in entrapment – the police officers create an opportunity or enticement for a suspect to commit a crime.
Entrapment vs. Opportunity
There is often a fine line between what’s considered entrapment and what’s considered opportunity.
A normally law abiding citizen would avoid engaging in criminal conduct, even if law enforcement officers presented a clear opportunity. So opportunity does not constitute entrapment. Instead, entrapment occurs when law enforcement agents resort to unacceptable police conduct – such as fraud, threats, harassment, encouragement, or flattery – in order to convince someone to commit a crime.
Subjective vs. Objective Standards for an Entrapment Defense
States generally use the objective test or the subjective test in order to determine whether or not entrapment occurred in a criminal case.
- Objective Standard: Objective entrapment occurs when the actions of a law enforcement officer induced a normally law abiding person to engage in criminal activity.
- Subjective Standard: Meanwhile, subjective entrapment describes a defendant’s predisposition to engage in criminal conduct makes them fully responsible for their actions, regardless of if a government agent induced the criminal conduct.
Most states – including Louisiana state law – use the subjective standard for determining whether entrapment occurred. Most cases are less likely to succeed with an entrapment defense, especially in states that use the subjective test. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong criminal defense team on your side.
Example of Entrapment
The entrapment defense is common in drug crime cases. Here is a clear example of how entrapment works.
A law enforcement agent suspects that Mike possesses and distributes illegal drugs on a regular basis. In order to prove this, the undercover officer approaches Mike several times over the course of several weeks, begging to buy his stash of illegal drugs. Mike repeatedly refused, because he merely possesses the drugs for his own personal use; he does not distribute the drugs or want to distribute them. Because Mike won’t sell drugs to the officer despite their pleas, the officer turns to threats and harassment. Mike eventually sells part of his stash to the officer because he feels afraid and annoyed. The law enforcement officer then arrests Mike for drug possession and distribution.
Now, if the undercover police officer merely showed interest in buying drugs – therefore providing Mike an opportunity for illegal drug distribution – and Mike gave into this opportunity, then Mike could not use the entrapment defense. Mike would only be able to use the defense successfully if he actively resisted every opportunity to sell drugs, until the officer engaged in unacceptable police behavior.
What is Suppression of Evidence?
Suppression of evidence occurs when a judge prevents illegally obtained evidence from being shown in a trial OR a lawyer intentionally hides evidence that does not support their case in order to prove that the defendant is guilty, even if they’re not. The first incident, regarding the judge, is completely legal. Meanwhile, the latter incident involving the lawyer is illegal. In fact, a lawyer who intentionally hides evidence to best support their case is violating the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
So – how does this relate to entrapment? As we have discussed, entrapment is illegal. If a judge discovers that crucial evidence in a criminal case was obtained or discovered through entrapment, then the judge can legally exclude it from a criminal trial. If the evidence obtained or discovered through entrapment was the only strong piece of evidence suggesting that the defendant committed a crime, then the defendant has a high chance of case dismissal.
How to Prove That Entrapment Occurred
The two related elements in an entrapment claim are:
- The government induced the defendant to commit the crime.
- The defendant had a lack of predisposition to commit the crime.
The predisposition issue basically means that the defendant was an “unwary innocent,” or better yet, an “unwary criminal” who readily committed a crime the minute an opportunity presented itself.
Because entrapment is an affirmative defense, defendants must prove entrapment through a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, defendants must prove that the actions of law enforcement officers constitute entrapment, not just opportunity.
If the defendant’s state uses the subjective test, then the burden of proof shifts from the jury back to the prosecution. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty because of the defendant’s predisposition to commit the crime – NOT because the officer’s actions induced them to commit the crime.
Call a Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Lawyer at the Law Offices of Ossie Brown Today
If you are facing any kind of criminal charge because of the illegal behavior of a government official, then you may have grounds to use the entrapment defense. Because Louisiana uses the subjective standard to prove entrapment in criminal cases, your chances of getting your charge or case dismissed are lower, especially without strong legal representation. Baton Rouge criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Ossie Brown have extensive knowledge of criminal law. We have what it takes to review the details of your criminal case and help you prove whether or not entrapment occurred. Call 225-343-1111 to schedule a free consultation with our legal team today.