When law enforcement agents put their lives on the line to catch and bring criminals to justice, it’s difficult not to appreciate the dangerous job they do. What does it mean, though, when they go too far? What if the police trick or induce a person into committing a crime that he might not have otherwise intended? That’s when enforcement becomes entrapment, and in many areas, it can serve as an excellent defense.
What Exactly Is Entrapment?
Although some may think that entrapment means nothing more than providing someone with a chance to break the law, it refers to far more than that. To qualify as entrapment, the agents or officers involved must take an active part in encouraging someone to engage in an illegal activity. One vital question remains: Without that outside pressure, would that person have ever thought of committing the crime?
Providing an Opportunity
The law enforcement agent who simply makes it easy for someone to commit a crime is doing nothing wrong. Although the police may deliberately leave the keys inside an unlocked Jaguar just to lure a car thief into stealing it, this act in and of itself does nothing to force or encourage the theft. Someone who chooses to avail himself of the opportunity will do so of his own volition. As a result, he will be accountable for the crime and unable to use entrapment as a defense.
An officer intent on entrapment may also set the scene by leaving the keys in a running car. However, instead of waiting to see whether the potential thief will or will not take the bait, this officer may then go on to flatter, cajole, harass or even threaten the target into doing just that. This would be entrapment, and the alleged thief might have a valid defense.
Entrapment in Nevada
Although entrapment is illegal in the state of Nevada, police commonly set up sting operations to catch individuals suspected of violating drug, prostitution, child pornography and lewd conduct laws. If their methods include the use of harassment, threats, pressure or flattery to entice their targets to commit a crime, these officers could be guilty of entrapment. People who can prove that the police deliberately tricked them into breaking the law can use entrapment as an absolute legal defense in getting the charges against them dropped.
You may suspect entrapment when an undercover decoy or a private citizen disguised as law enforcement:
- Threatens to harm you.
- Plays on your emotions.
- Harasses you with repeated requests.
- Attempts to persuade you that the requested activity is legal.
However, not all police trickery qualifies as entrapment. As long as the behavior contains no hint of coercion, it is legal for an officer to:
- Masquerade as a drug dealer.
- Dress as a prostitute.
- Go undercover in a restroom to watch for lewd conduct.
- Deny any connection with law enforcement.
- Insist that they are not setting you up.
The entrapment defense, when applicable, has served to exonerate many individuals who might otherwise face conviction for a criminal offense, and courts at both the state and federal levels rely on its existence to ensure the integrity of undercover operations.
Subjective versus Objective Entrapment
Entrapment exists in different formulations, the most common of which are the subjective and objective forms. If you’re considering entrapment as a legal defense, the difference between them could make or break your case.
In its objective formulation, entrapment exists when the actions of the undercover agent in question have proven sufficiently egregious to lead even a law-abiding individual to engage in the criminal behavior in question. In the objective formulation, the doctrine of predisposition does not enter the picture.
This most-common interpretation of entrapment holds that the defense is valid when the defendant can prove that he never intended to commit the crime and did so only after the officer’s persuasive tactics planted the idea in his head. If, on the other hand, the prosecution can prove that the defendant was already disposed to commit the crime, the entrapment defense will not succeed. Nevada treats entrapment as an affirmative defense. Anyone who chooses to use it must initially produce evidence that law enforcement set him up with both the opportunity and the inducement to commit the crime. After that, however, the state will be responsible for proving that despite any pressure or intimidation, the defendant was already predisposed to break that particular law. If this should prove impossible, the state should dismiss the case.
If you feel you’re the victim of entrapment, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. The criminal defense attorneys at Weiner Law Group will look over your case and determine whether entrapment is the best legal defense. Call us today at 702-202-0500 or fill out our contact form.