If you face federal drug or fraud charges, entrapment may be one of the defenses available to you. It is important to understand that effective use of this defense involves many nuances.
The legal definition of entrapment can differ greatly from popular understanding. An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and come up with strategies designed for optimal effect.
The entrapment defense is based on the principle that law enforcement agents should not be able to chivvy someone into committing a crime and then prosecute that person. An effective entrapment argument means proving that a government agent caused the defendant to commit the crime and that the defendant had no predisposition to commit it.
Generally, to show that a government agent caused the crime, one must have evidence that the agent not only suggested it, but acted so as to push the defendant towards committing it. Misrepresentation, such as typically happens in the course of undercover operation, does not count.
Courts usually use the standard of whether the inducement was strong enough to persuade a regular, non-criminal person to commit the offense. It can include persuasion, coercion or playing on the defendant’s sympathies or fears.
Predisposition is also important. If the government shows the defendant was predisposed to commit this type of crime, the entrapment defense will likely fail, even if the defendant proves inducement. Prosecutors often try to show predisposition by bringing evidence of other crimes the defendant committed. However, not all crimes will necessarily support predisposition. For example, someone with a few DUI convictions is not necessarily predisposed to committing murder, investment fraud or drug trafficking. In addition, sometimes the previous crimes could also result from previous inducement by the undercover operators, so the argument for predisposition may be weaker.
Predisposition is a separate matter from the issue of intent, which is an element of several crimes. A person can intend to perform a criminal action, but if entrapment is present, the intent itself would be a product of inducement by a law enforcement agent.