What Is Entrapment?

Entrapment can be used as a legal defense against criminal charges. Entrapment usually occurs when a police officer uses coercion as a tactic to get someone to commit a crime. However, simply giving someone the opportunity to commit a crime is not enough to suggest that they were entrapped. When a government agent uses threats, harassment, fraud, or even flattery to induce a person to commit a crime, they are then guilty of entrapment.

Entrapment Examples

Contrary to what Hollywood tells us, police officers are allowed to lie. If you sell drugs to an undercover officer, who claims they are not a cop or setting you up, you can still be charged. Let’s say the officer mislead you and said the drugs were for their sick aunt. Technically, the officer only gave you the opportunity to break the law, meaning their behavior would not be considered entrapment.

However, let’s say the officer you sold drugs to repeatedly contacted you for the past two weeks. Each time you refused to sell to them. The officer then tells you that his aunt is dying and they only want the drugs so she can be comfortable in her final moments. Upon giving the drugs to the officer, you are immediately arrested. In this case, an entrapment defense can be used. This is because the nature of officer’s repeated entreaties and lies can be considered coercion in this situation.

Entrapment laws are intended to help suppress outrageous conduct by police officers and other government officials. An entrapment defense can’t be used against private individuals who have coerced a person into committing a crime.

States employ either an objective or a subjective standard to determine if entrapment occurred. Under the objective standard, defendants offer entrapment evidence to jurors who decide whether a police officer's actions would have persuaded a normally law-abiding person to commit a crime. Under the subjective standard, jurors decide whether the defendant's predisposition to commit the crime makes them responsible for their actions, regardless of any officer’s inducements. Entrapment defenses are not as likely to succeed under the subjective standard.

Do you think you have been entrapped for a crime? Contact our Virginia Beach criminal defense lawyer to get started on your free consultation today.

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