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Entrapment as a Defense

Posted on February 17, 2021 in Criminal Defense

When someone is charged with a crime in Arizona, that party has the right to dispute the charges using a suitable defense. There are many defense strategies used by criminal defendants in Arizona. One is entrapment. Learn more about the entrapment defense and how it works to determine whether this is a usable strategy for you.

What Does Entrapment Mean?

Entrapment is the argument that the defendant would not have committed a crime had a law enforcement agent not coerced, persuaded or deceived the defendant into doing so. In other words, a defendant cannot be convicted of a crime manufactured by a law enforcement officer or agency.

Entrapment often arises out of a law enforcement agency’s desire to catch someone in the act of committing a crime. Entrapment may involve a law enforcement officer going undercover and communicating with the defendant to convince him or her to engage in criminal activity. For example, it would be entrapment if an undercover officer creates a false drug deal, then coerces someone into taking the deal who would not have otherwise committed the crime.

During a criminal case, if a defendant can demonstrate using evidence that he or she had no original attempt to commit the crime and only did so due to the law enforcement agent’s persuading or intimidation, the defendant may prevent a conviction. For the entrapment defense to work, however, the defendant or his or her Phoenix defense attorney will need evidence to prove it.

What Must You Prove for the Entrapment Defense?

Entrapment is an affirmative defense. The defendant or his or her lawyer will have the burden to prove the scenario in question fulfills the state’s definition of entrapment before a court in Arizona will accept this defense. Unfortunately, entrapment can be a difficult defense to assert. Proving an entrapment defense requires proof of three elements:

  1. A government official planted the idea for the crime. Note that only a government official can commit entrapment, not an individual.
  2. The defendant was not willing or predisposed to commit the crime.
  3. The actions or behaviors of the government official are why the defendant committed the crime.

The line between entrapment and a defendant acting on an opportunity to commit the crime is thin. Part of what makes the entrapment defense so complicated is that law enforcement officers are lawfully allowed to engage in undercover sting operations to make arrests and build criminal cases against defendants. Officers can create opportunities for individuals to commit crimes. They cannot, however, coerce, threaten or harass an individual to violate the law.

Standards for Assessing an Entrapment Defense

When a jury assesses an entrapment defense for validity, it will use one of two different standards. The first is the objective standard. With this standard, a jury will ask whether a law enforcement officer’s actions would have made a typical law-abiding individual commit the crime in question.

The second standard is the subjective standard. Using the subjective standard, a jury will decide whether a defendant’s predisposition to commit the crime should make him or her culpable for his or her actions, with or without evidence of entrapment. The chances of a defendant successfully using the entrapment defense are smaller with the subjective standard compared to the objective standard.

Discuss Defense Strategies in More Detail With a Lawyer Today

The entrapment defense is a confusing and complicated defense strategy. When a defendant has grounds for the entrapment defense and supporting evidence, however, it can present a strong argument in the defendant’s favor that may prevent a conviction.

If you believe you have the ability to use the entrapment defense in Arizona, discuss it with a criminal defense attorney in more detail. An attorney can review your individual case to let you know if the entrapment defense is right for you.