Louisiana Criminal Law Attorney
Entrapment: The Basics
Entrapment is an affirmative defense to criminal charges that is generally based on the interaction between police officers and the defendant prior to the alleged crime. A typical entrapment scenario happens when law enforcement officers use coercion and excessive force tactics to induce someone to commit a crime.
Entrapment is not opportunity!
Government agents do not entrap defendants simply by offering them an opportunity to commit a crime. People have free will and are expected to resist any ordinary temptation to violate the law. An entrapment defense arises when government agents resort to abusive behavior, the use of threats, harassment, fraud, or even flattery to induce defendants to commit crimes.
Example 1: Tom is charged with selling prescription drugs to an undercover police officer. Tom testifies that the drugs were prescribed to him by his physician and for his personal use. He states that the reason he sold some to the officer is that the officer falsely said that he wanted some drugs for his mom, who was in a lot of pain due to a back injury. According to Tom, the officer even assured him that he wasn’t a cop and wasn’t setting Tom up. The police officer’s actions do not amount to entrapment. Police officers are allowed to tell lies. The officer gave Tom an opportunity to break the law, but the officer did not engage in extreme or overbearing behavior.
Example 2: Tom is charged with selling illegal drugs to an undercover police officer. Tom testifies that, “the drugs were prescribed by my physician and for my personal use. For nearly two weeks, the undercover officer stopped by my apartment and pleaded with me to sell him some of my pills because his mom had an injured back and needed the drugs for pain relief. I kept refusing. When the officer told me that the drugs would allow his mom to walk again, I broke down and sold him some drugs. He immediately arrested me.” The undercover agent’s repeated enticements and lies are sufficiently extreme to constitute entrapment and result in a not guilty verdict.
Assessing an Entrapment Defense: Subjective and Objective Standards
States employ either an objective or a subjective standard to determine whether entrapment occurred.
• Objective Standard — Under an objective standard, when defendants offer entrapment evidence jurors decide whether a police officer’s actions would have induced a normally law-abiding person to commit a crime.
• Subjective Standard — Under a subjective standard, when a defendant offers entrapment evidence, jurors decide whether the defendant’s predisposition to commit the crime makes the defendant responsible for his or her actions, regardless of any government agent’s inducements. Entrapment defenses are less likely to succeed under a subjective standard. Most states, including Louisiana, employ the Subjective Standard.
Only Government Agents Can Entrap
Entrapment law is intended to curb outrageous conduct by police officers and other public officials. An entrapment defense does not arise if private individuals convince defendants to commit crimes.
Elizabeth B. Carpenter, Esq. — Contact us for a consultation today!