Police officers often go to great lengths to catch suspects – especially when it comes to serious, high-profile crimes such as drug trafficking, solicitation of a minor or prostitution. Deception, undercover work and sting operations may play a big role in these investigations. Yet, at what point do police officers go too far? Can someone really be charged with a crime if an undercover cop tricked them into doing it?
Entrapment is a powerful defense to criminal charges. However, the definition of entrapment is far narrower than most people realize. To successfully claim entrapment, you must prove that both:
- A law enforcement agent induced you to commit a crime.
- You weren’t predisposed to commit it.
The second element requires showing that you wouldn’t have committed the crime without the police officer’s involvement. That’s a tough standard to meet.
Consider a drug-trafficking example. If an undercover cop approached a dealer on the corner and begged to purchase some drugs, that’s not entrapment. The dealer was predisposed to commit the crime because he would have sold drugs to anyone who came along.
But what if that same cop befriended a homeless man who wasn’t a dealer or user. What if the undercover cop offered the man food and shelter on the condition that he track down some drugs and buy them for the cop. Arguably, that would be entrapment, because the homeless man wouldn’t have bought the drugs if the cop hadn’t pressured him to.
Of course, a lot depends on the circumstances of each case. That’s why you should always consult with a lawyer about your situation.