Have I been Entrapped by the Police?

Here at Miller Law Offices, we are concerned about your rights and believe that it’s our job not just to protect you in court but also to educate people about how far the government and police can go. Often times, people believe they have been coerced or entrapped into committing a crime.

Entrapment occurs when a police officer implants or convinces a person, who otherwise had done nothing, to commit a crime. The intent by the officer is to create a case they can prosecute. A 1986 appellate court case discusses this:

“The principal element of the defense of entrapment is the defendant’s lack of disposition to commit the crime.”

So what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that if you were at a place and an officer came up to you and offered a chance to commit a crime, that’s entrapment. Rather, entrapment hinges upon the amount of effort the authorities take to convince you to commit a crime plus your own predisposition to do so.

However, if you are a person who predisposed to commit a crime, such as a known drug dealer and an officer tried to buy drugs from you, that is another story.

In determining predisposition to commit a crime in drug cases, courts look at the following: 1) the defendant’s initial reluctance or willingness to commit the crime; (2) the defendant’s familiarity with drugs; (3) the defendant’s willingness to accommodate the needs of drug users; (4) the defendant’s willingness to profit from the offense; (5) the defendant’s current or prior drug use; (6) the defendant’s participation in cutting or testing the drugs; and (7) the defendant’s ready access to a supply of drugs. S.H.A. 720 ILCS 5/7-12.

To raise such an affirmative defense (where the burden of proving the matter is you, not the state), you need to, in essence, admit you did wrong but argue that it was the cops’ fault.

And there’s an appellate court case on point for this. From the 1996 case where the appellate court threw out a drug conviction, the panel found that an Illinois man who initially resisted an informant’s attempts to buy drugs was entrapped. In that case, the man was approached several times before he agreed to buy drugs for the informant and an undercover officer.

The appellate court held in that case that the man was entrapped because he wasn’t predisposed to commit a crime and also wasn’t merely afforded an opportunity. The state urged him to buy the drugs. The officers repeatedly called or sent text messages to him.

And that, the appellate court found was entrapment. But drugs aren’t the only venue where an entrapment is an issue.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 in the landmark case, Jacobson v. United States, that police or other law enforcement can’t lead a person down a path they wouldn’t have taken. The case was notable in that it was one that didn’t involve drugs but rather child pornography. The defendant, a Nebraska man, was arrested in 1987 after obtaining the illicit images from a mail order catalog. The entire thing was a ruse. He was targeted by authorities who spent two years or so trying to entice him into buying the material.

He was convicted and then appealed. Initially, he won at the appellate court level but a rehearing reinstated the conviction. The High Court picked the case for hearing and by a 5-4 vote, overturned Jacobson’s conviction. Justice Bryon white wrote for the majority and concluded;

“When the Government’s quest for convictions leads to the apprehension of an otherwise law-abiding citizen who, if left to his own devices, likely would have never run afoul of the law, the courts should intervene.”

The Court hasn’t taken up the issue since and as such, Jacobson remains poignant today. One of its legacies is the need by prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that a person had a predisposition to commit a crime, something that wasn’t the case in Jacobson.

Here at Miller Law Offices, we pay attention to court cases such as these to make your rights are protected. We hold the police to the highest standards to make sure they don’t cross the line or violate accepted practices.

If you have a problem or believe you were coerced by the police, give us a call. We’ll be glad to talk over your situation with you.

Posted in Criminal Law

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