Law enforcement agencies throughout Ohio as well as the rest of the nation often depend on undercover officers and informants to help identify criminal behavior and make arrests. The angry cry of the person caught in the snare of an investigation involving an undercover officer or informant usually is, “I’ve been set up!” Most who hear such a cry might roll their eyes and dismiss the person’s declaration as the exclamation of someone who is simply upset they got caught engaging in criminal behavior, in some situations there may be merit to the person’s complaint.
The Entrapment Defense Explained
In many situations, a law enforcement agency that plants an informant or an undercover officer in the midst of a criminal enterprise may use proceed to arrest and prosecute those who willingly engage in criminal behavior with the informant or undercover officer. The reasoning is simple: the officers or police informant did not entice or cause the offender to do something that the offender was not already inclined to do themselves.
But what if the “offender” was not predisposed to commit a crime? What if the circumstances or pressures facing the “offender” were so great that they felt they had no choice but to commit a crime? If the pressure is coming from law enforcement officers or individuals working in cooperation with law enforcement agencies, then such a situation may be one for which the entrapment defense is designed.
The entrapment defense essentially argues that the person accused of committing a crime only did so because of undue pressure, coercion, or compulsion applied by law enforcement or people acting on their behalf. Some examples where the entrapment defense might apply include:
- A police informant blackmails a person, threatening to reveal embarrassing information to the public unless the person sells the informant drugs
- An undercover agent repeatedly asks a person to sell the agent drugs, calling the person at all hours of the day and night and even visiting the person’s place of work in an attempt to buy drugs
- A person working for a law enforcement agency provides a white powdery substance to an individual, tells the individual it is sugar and asks the individual to deliver the “sugar” to a place across town. The “sugar” is actually methamphetamine and other law enforcement officers stop, arrest the individual and charge them with intending to distribute methamphetamine
Burden of Proof in Entrapment Cases
Although the prosecution always bears the responsibility of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a defendant who wishes to use the entrapment defense bears the responsibility of showing that they were not predisposed to commit the crime with which they are charged until law enforcement threatened, pressured, or deceived them. In determining whether a person would have committed the crime absent influence from law enforcement, the judge or jury hearing the case may consider:
- The nature and extent of law enforcement’s pressure or inducement;
- Whether the defendant has engaged in similar conduct in the past
- How quickly and how easily the person complies with the suggestion or direction of the undercover officer or informant
How a Columbus Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You
Dawes Legal, LLC can analyze the facts of your situation and can advise you what defenses you may have available to the criminal charges you are facing. We will also assist in gathering and presenting evidence you need to advance your defense. Even if it appears you do not have a defense, our criminal defense attorneys can still help ensure your rights are protected and the prosecution is required to meet its burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Let us help you: call Dawes Legal, LLC at (614) 733-9999.