The concept of entrapment generally brings to mind complex schemes, undercover police work, and plot-twists worthy of a Hollywood movie. But entrapment can be a serious, real defense to criminal charges where a police officer or other government agent has induced a citizen to commit a crime. If you are in this situation, read on to find out what you can do about it and what issues are likely to come up.
Entrapment is defined in the same way under both Minnesota and federal law. (Federal law may be relevant to you because, as discussed below, entrapment often comes up in drug cases, which could involve either state or federal prosecution.) Essentially, it is the instigation of a criminal act by a government agent. There is also a concept called “sentencing entrapment,” which occurs when a defendant is predisposed to commit a lesser crime, but is entrapped by the government into committing a crime subject to more severe punishment.
If a court decides that you were entrapped into commission of crime charged, it will bar further prosecution of that crime. If the court finds against you on your entrapment argument and you are later convicted of the crime, you can still re-argue the issue on appeal of your conviction.
What to argue using an entrapment defense
The focus of a court’s analysis of an entrapment defense will be on whether the defendant had a prior disposition to commit the crime. So, two factors must be met: (1) the criminal conduct must have been initiated by the government agent, not the defendant, and (2) the defendant must not have had a prior disposition to commit the crime. If law enforcement merely sets a trap for a not-so-stellar criminal, this is not going to be considered entrapment. The use of undercover agents is also not, on its own, evidence of entrapment.
So, to successfully argue that you were entrapped to commit a crime, you won’t have to show that you were a 100% law-abiding citizen prior to the officer’s inducement to commit the crime, but you will have to demonstrate that you weren’t planning to commit the crime anyway and the officer just made it easier for you. Here’s a comparison of some facts from two different cases:
- Police initiated a “reverse sting” by sending a confidential informant in to buy marijuana from the defendant. The defendant refused to buy any marijuana several times before finally assenting. This was found to be entrapment, despite the defendant’s involvement with drugs some 20 years earlier.
- Undercover narcotics agent supplied the defendant with an essential ingredient to allow defendant to manufacture methamphetamine. The ingredient itself, propanone, was not illegal but was extremely difficult to obtain. This was found not to be entrapment.
In other words, this defense is very fact-specific and unique to each case, and any evidence you have of why you would not have otherwise committed the crime will be of use.