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How Effective is Entrapment as an Appropriate Defense?

Apr 26, 2008
Entrapment is the act of a law enforcement agent inducing a person to commit an offense, which the person would not have, or was unlikely to have, otherwise committed. An entrapment defense generally requires the defendant to prove that he never would have committed the crime absent the police trapping him. At the same time, the government will attempt to show that the defendant was predisposed to committing such a crime so as to negate the entrapment defense. If the government is able to show that the defendant readily and quickly responded to a single invitation, then they may be able to establish that the defendant was inclined to committing the crime on their own. However, even if the defendant was predisposed to committing the crime the government may still be required to prove it was not the law enforcement's suggestive nature that caused crime to be committed.

As an affirmative defense, a defendant who is claiming that he was entrapped is stating that he did in fact commit the crime for which he is being accused. What the defendant is suggesting is that he should be excused from criminal liability, because absent being lured to the crime or enticement to engage in the criminal activity, he never would have committed the offense. Federal law provides that a defendant can both plead not guilty to the act of the crime and claim an affirmative defense of entrapment. However, both defenses are seldom asserted simultaneously.

Generally, entrapment is most commonly asserted as a defense in sting operations. For example, in the case of a drug sting if the police put pressure upon a person to sell drugs who initially refuses, but is persuaded to do so, then they could be seen as entrapping that individual. In the process of such operations, the police often engage in the same so-called crimes as the target suspect in order to gain the trust of the individual. Sometimes this conduct may be unethical and rise to the level of entrapment.

There are certain limitations, however, on when a defendant may raise an entrapment defense. Serious criminal charges such as homicide or felony murder can never be a defense to entrapment. In addition, if a defendant has a criminal history he may have a difficult time proving an entrapment defense because the government will attempt to introduce evidence of the prior convictions. If the prosecution can demonstrate a previous history of similar crimes then it becomes extremely difficult to prove entrapment.

The circumstances under which an entrapment defense may be employed are fairly specific, but an attorney familiar with an understanding of entrapment defenses may be able to give you more information regarding a particular situation.
About the Author
Neil Lemons represents Teakell Law. For more information on entrapment testimony defense in the Dallas/Fort Worth area visit their website http://www.teakelllaw.com.
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