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Entrapment: Definition, Law & Examples

Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Learn what constitutes entrapment. Review the definition of the crime, then examine the various laws of entrapment. Finally, we'll look at several examples of this term to gain a thorough understanding.

Definition

Have you ever seen television programs where a police officer harasses a person so much that the person caves and commits a crime even though he or she did not actually start out meaning to commit the crime? Even though this is a scripted scene, the fact is that this scenario has played out in the real world.

Entrapment happens when the police induce or deceive another person into committing a crime. Frequently, this type of scenario arises in drug dealing, prostitution, and gambling. Moreover, the police usually use harassment, threats, pressure, fraud and other underhanded strategies to encourage others to engage in criminal activity.

Entrapment is utilized as a defense by the individual charged with the crime. A defense is an argument presented to the court to defend against the charges brought against them. Usually, the entrapment defense will demonstrate that the person did not intend to commit the crime, but the police entrapped them into committing the crime. If the court finds that the police entrapped the person, the court will usually dismiss the charges against that person.

Law

Every state has different laws regarding entrapment. Therefore, it is important to check the particular state law where the crime occurred. Generally, state laws will have either an objective entrapment law or a subjective entrapment law. When following the objective standard law, the court must determine whether a reasonable law-abiding person would commit the crime in light of the police officer's behavior. In contrast, under a subjective standard law, the court must determine whether the particular offender has a certain predisposition to commit the crime in question.

Examples

Let's review some examples to get a better understanding of entrapment. Imagine that Bob is a former drug addict. He has made efforts to maintain a job and stay clean. Mary, an undercover police officer, tries to get Bob to sell her drugs. Mary harasses Bob repeatedly. She follows Bob around all day and night, requesting drugs. Bob refuses until one day she will not stop bothering him. Bob wants her to leave him alone, and he is afraid he will relapse and lose his job. Therefore, he sells her drugs. He is subsequently arrested. At trial, Bob's attorney can successfully use the entrapment defense.

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