What Is Considered Entrapment?
In some criminal matters, law enforcement officials might set up sting operations to catch someone in the act of committing a crime. A sting operation may work like this: Government agents believe that Jesse has been or is planning on selling drugs. Therefore, working undercover, they tell Jesse where he can get some cocaine and who he can sell it to (someone who is actually another undercover cop). Jesse then follows through with the offense, and he is arrested and charged with drug distribution.
In the example given above, law enforcement officials are creating an opportunity to commit an offense. Such acts are legal, even if the officers used deceit or some type of artifice to get a person to carry out the crime.
Is Entrapment Illegal?
Now, had the officers coerced Jesse into committing an offense that he normally wouldn't have done, that is considered entrapment. It is illegal and may be used as an affirmative defense in some criminal cases.
Elements of Entrapment in Rhode Island
Depending on the circumstances, the defendant may use entrapment as a defense. But it's important to note that being accused of a crime because law enforcement officials set up a sting operation and created an opportunity for the offense is not enough to claim entrapment.
A couple of elements must be met for law enforcement's actions to be considered entrapment. These include:
- The government agents induced the offense; and
- The defendant was not predisposed to engage in the unlawful conduct
Inducing Criminal Behavior in Rhode Island
The first element of entrapment is inducing the defendant to commit the crime. This means that the government agent somehow forced or coerced the individual to act. Returning to the example above with Jesse and the drug crime, law enforcement officials merely provided Jesse with the means to distribute drugs.
However, let's say the officers told Jesse that if he didn't pick up the cocaine and sell it to the buyer, they would release discriminating photos of him online. Such threats could be considered inducement and may meet the first element of entrapment.
Predisposition to Commit a Crime in Rhode Island
Just because the defendant can show that they were induced to commit a crime, that does not mean the entrapment defense holds. It must also be proven that the defendant was not predisposed to engage in criminal conduct.
Predisposition means that the individual, given the opportunity, would have been willing to commit the offense on their own, even without law enforcement involvement. If the defendant lacked predisposition, it could be argued that they were entrapped.
Entrapment as a Defense
If the inducement and lack of predisposition elements are met, the entrapment defense may stand. That being said, entrapment is a challenging defense to mount. It requires looking at the totality of the circumstances, as well as the defendant's past actions and behaviors.
If you're facing criminal charges in Rhode Island, our attorney will evaluate your case to build a defense strategy for your particular situation. To discuss your legal options, contact The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq. at (401) 312-4385 today.