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Family and Criminal Law Blog

Thursday, March 24, 2022

What is Entrapment?

The government and its agents, whether it be a prosecutor, a law enforcement officer, or someone else, is not without limits on its powers when it comes to the investigating, arresting, or prosecuting of those suspected of engaging in criminal activity. In fact, there are well established boundaries to their authority and violations of said boundaries can be used as a defense against criminal prosecution. The available criminal defenses will, of course, depend on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding a case. Entrapment, for instance is one criminal defense that, while it may be very useful in mounting a successful defense, is very limited in scope.

What is Entrapment?

Entrapment refers to a situation where a law enforcement officer coerces or induces someone else into committing a crime. So, this is a defense that focuses on the interactions between law enforcement officers and a criminal defendant prior to or during the perpetration of an alleged crime. There are fine points to entrapment that must be understood before trying to assert it as a defense to a criminal charge.

For example, merely offering a person the opportunity to participate in a crime is not going to rise to the level of entrapment. It has to be more than a police officer presenting an opportunity to participate in a criminal activity to be applicable. Instead, the person must have been pushed into committing to a crime. The push must be strong enough so that the defendant was coerced or induced to commit a crime. Ordinary temptation to commit a crime will not be enough as courts expect your average person to be able to restrain themselves from a mere opportunity to commit a crime.

A law enforcement agent’s actions must have involved something like threats, harassing behavior, or even outright fraud in order to push the defendant to commit a crime. It should also be emphasized here that the coercion must have been perpetrated by a government agent in order for entrapment to be applicable. Entrapment is, after all, a means of curbing more repugnant behavior by police officers and other government agents.

Because entrapment is an affirmative defense, it can be especially important to pay attention to the burden of proof in these cases. An affirmative defense is one where the defendant says that he or she may have engaged in the allegedly criminal conduct, but there should be no criminal liability and penalty imposed because of extenuating circumstances. In entrapment, the extenuating circumstances are coercion by a government agent to get the defendant to commit the crime.

With affirmative defenses, the defendant carries the burden of convincing the court “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the affirmative defense is substantiated. In the case of entrapment, the defendant will need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the actions of the government agents rose to the level of entrapment. In Texas, should a defendant meet this burden of proof, then it should lead to a not guilty verdict. Texas courts use the objective test of entrapment which focuses on the law enforcement actions as opposed to the defendant’s state of mind.

Texas Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you are being charged with a crime that you would not have committed had it not been for the actions of law enforcement or other government agents, then you may be able to use the entrapment defense. Talk to the trusted criminal defense team at Navarrete & Schwartz about your options. We are proud to serve the residence of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.


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