Entrapment is a legal concept that many people think they understand – usually based on what they’ve seen in movies and television shows. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry doesn’t always give an accurate depiction of how the entrapment defense works.
What is Entrapment, Exactly?
Generally, entrapment occurs when a law enforcement agent persuades or coerces someone to commit a crime that the person otherwise wouldn’t have committed. Under Florida law, if a defendant can prove that his or her criminal conduct was most likely caused by entrapment, then the defendant will be acquitted.
Under Florida Statute 777.201, entrapment occurs if:
- A law enforcement officer (or a person cooperating with law enforcement, or acting as a law enforcement officer) induces or encourages someone to commit a crime;
- The inducement and/or encouragement directly causes the person to commit the crime;
- The officer uses methods of persuasion or inducement which create a substantial risk that a person will commit a crime they otherwise weren’t ready to commit; and
- The officer does this in order to obtain evidence of the commission of a crime.
How Does Entrapment Work as a Legal Defense?
Florida recognizes two different forms of entrapment. One is “subjective entrapment.” To demonstrate subjective entrapment, a defendant must convince the court that:
- They were induced by an officer to commit the crime; and
- They were not predisposed to commit the crime.
If they can show evidence that both of these things are most likely true, then it becomes the prosecutor’s job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were, in fact, predisposed to committing the crime.
The other recognized form of entrapment is “objective entrapment.” To demonstrate objective entrapment, a defendant must show that the methods of persuasion used by law enforcement agents were so egregious that they violated the Florida Constitution.
Generally, if you want to convince a court that you were subjected to either form of entrapment, you’ll have to show that the police (or other law enforcement agents) really twisted your arm. If an undercover police officer puts on a revealing outfit, and waits in an area where prostitutes typically gather, and you offer the officer money for sex, that is not considered entrapment under Florida law. Buying drugs from an undercover police officer generally won’t be considered a form of entrapment, either – unless you can convince the court that you weren’t predisposed to buying drugs, and you only bought them because they coerced you.
However, there are times when entrapment defenses work. One example is the case of Dial vs. State, which was decided in Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal (where Fort Lauderdale is located). In this case, the defendant was accused of selling prescription painkillers. The defendant was persuaded to do this by her boss, who was secretly a police informant.
The boss claimed to have a friend with pain problems, who was interested in buying the defendant’s pills. The defendant, who had no criminal record, offered to give the friend pills for free. The boss suggested that the defendant sell the pills instead. The defendant eventually sold the pills, after being urged repeatedly by the boss to do so.
Talk to a Lawyer
If the police have subjected you to entrapment, don’t let them get away with it. Call or email Fort Lauderdale defense attorney Mark S. Lowry today, and set up a free consultation.