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What is the entrapment defense and how does it work?

On Behalf of The Foley Law Firm | April 27, 2018

When you face criminal charges in Colorado, you need a strong defense. Because every case consists of its own specific facts and legal issues, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to an effective strategy.

If you broke the law at the instigation of a law enforcement officer, an entrapment defense may be feasible. However, Colorado law has some very specific requirements that can present a challenge.

What does inducement mean?

The first requirement for a successful entrapment defense is showing that the defendant committed a crime because a law enforcement officer induced him or her to do so. This typically happens in the course of an undercover investigation when an operative goes too far in encouraging a crime. The second requirement demands a showing that the defendant would not have committed the crime without this inducement.

One major question in an entrapment case concerns the issue of when legitimate undercover work crosses the line into inducement. On one end of the spectrum, simply offering the defendant a chance to commit a crime is usually not inducement. For example, if an undercover operative offers a bribe in a corruption sting, the official who accepts it is unlikely to succeed in arguing entrapment.

Going to the other extreme, courts are more likely to find inducement if the operative used methods such as credible threats of violence. Basically, an entrapment defense needs the sort of inducement that would likely push an otherwise law-abiding person to break the law.

What is criminal predisposition?

Even if the law enforcement officer's conduct would constitute entrapment, a prosecutor may counter by alleging the defendant had a criminal predisposition and was likely to commit the crime even without inducement. This argument involves scrutinizing the defendant's previous criminal history, as well as his or her actions at the time of the crime. Generally, the criminal predisposition must relate to the crime in question; a history of minor shoplifting typically does not predispose someone to commit murder.

Arguing an entrapment defense also means admitting to committing the criminal act. Courts will likely not accept an entrapment defense from a defendant who argues he or she never broke the law in the first place.

Does federal law offer an entrapment defense?

Federal statutes contain similar provisions. However, established case law may differ in its handling and interpretation of specific issues.

As this brief exploration of entrapment shows, there can be complex issues of fact and law regarding the application of the entrapment defense. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can review the particular set of circumstances in a case and explain a defendant's legal options.

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