Entrapment is a complete defense in some criminal cases. A person will be said to have been entrapped if a law enforcement officer engaged in conduct that would cause a normally law abiding citizen to commit a crime. The definition of entrapment may seem fairly straightforward, but in actuality it is a lot more complex in it’s application.
Entrapment will be a successful defense when there is pressure, harassment or fraud applied by the law enforcement officer. Anything less than that will not be considered entrapment. The definition of what constitutes enough pressure or harassment is subjective, and therefore is open to many different interpretations. An experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney has handled many entrapment defenses and can determine whether a specific case has a strong or weak entrapment defense.
One of the biggest elements that will distinguish a valid entrapment defense from what is not entrapment is the element of predisposition. If a person is predisposed, has the inclination to engage in certain kinds of behavior, there is a weak argument in favor of entrapment. The Supreme Court ruling in Mathew v. United States (485 U.S. 58 (1988)) determined that entrapment will only be successful in cases where there is a lack of predisposition on behalf of the person being charged. If the government can establish that the person trying the entrapment defense was predisposed to commit the unlawful act then he or she will not be able to use the defense successfully. It won’t be entrapment when the person is already willing to commit a crime and the law enforcement officer merely provides the opportunity to do so.
For example, let’s assume there is a man who is a known drug dealer. In order to gather evidence, officers plan a stakeout and observe him selling drugs to other people. Then to gather further evidence they go undercover and approach the man to buy drugs from him. After refusing once, he immediately sells the drugs and is arrested. If he were to claim an entrapment defense , it would not be a strong defense because he had a predisposition to sell the drugs regardless of who it was to and without any pressure of coercion for law enforcement. The officer provided him with an opportunity to engage in criminal conduct; selling him the drugs.
Predisposition is often proven through prior conduct and reputation. If a person has been arrested and charged with sales of narcotics before, pleading entrapment on a third offense will not be a strong argument due to the previous convictions. In comparison, if a person has nothing on his criminal record and has not been known to engage in any kind of unlawful behavior in relations to drugs they may be able to present a strong case for entrapment. There is a strong case for person B, because it is harder to prove that the person has a predisposition to commit the kind of behavior they are being charged with.
Determining predisposition requires effective argument and a persuasive argument in favor of the defense. A knowledgeable Southern California Criminal Defense lawyer can prepare the most effective strategy when entrapment is in issue. There is a fine distinction between what the government will consider entrapment, and when they will find it to be inapplicable. Speak to a Criminal Defense attorney to understand your options and explore the defenses that are best for your case.