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What Is Entrapment?

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on July 10, 2012 10:07 AM

What is entrapment? It's a defense that's commonly used in some criminal cases, but not every defendant can claim entrapment.

An entrapment defense only works when a government agent induces a person to commit a crime that the person otherwise would not have committed.

So who can be considered a government agent? And how does an entrapment defense work?

Government agents

In general, government agents include law-enforcement officers and anyone acting on the government's behalf. Civilians who work undercover as part of an official government investigation can be considered government agents.

But if a civilian who's not a government agent induces a friend to sell drugs, for example, an entrapment defense won't work if the friend is charged with a crime.

How the entrapment defense works

State laws vary, but in general, there are two ways to prove entrapment:

  • By proving the defendant would not have committed the crime, but for the undue persuasion or fraud of a government agent, or
  • By proving that a government agent encouraged the crime in such a way that it created a risk that a person not inclined to commit the crime would commit it.

Prosecutors can counter an entrapment defense by showing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was predisposed to commit the criminal act before government agents gave him the idea. This is typically proven by showing the defendant's involvement in prior criminal conduct similar to the crime he's now charged with.

Entrapment is most often claimed in government sting operations that involve drug dealing, bribery, or sex offenses, but it depends on the circumstances. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help determine if entrapment should be a part of your defense strategy.

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