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The Entrapment Defense in Criminal Law Cases

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Criminal law is vast and diverse, offering numerous defenses tailored to protect the rights of the accused.

Among these defenses is the concept of “entrapment.” This term might be familiar to those outside the legal profession from movies or TV shows, but its intricacies often need to be understood.

Colburn Hintze Maletta, a leading Phoenix-based criminal law firm, provides an in-depth look into this defense strategy.

To understand entrapment in the legal sense, one must distinguish between mere opportunity and actual persuasion. It’s crucial to recognize that not all proactive law enforcement techniques are entrapment. Police can lawfully offer criminals a chance to break the law, such as in sting operations, without it being considered entrapment.

However, when the line is crossed into pressuring an otherwise unwilling individual to commit a crime, the defense of entrapment becomes relevant and can lead to an acquittal.

If you’re faced with a situation where entrapment may be at play, remember that specialized legal guidance is crucial. At Colburn Hintze Maletta, we stand ready to defend your rights and ensure the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us to learn more about how we can assist with your entrapment defense.

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The Entrapment Defense in Criminal Law Cases

Introduction to the Entrapment Defense

Entrapment is a defense that arises when law enforcement officers induce a person to commit a crime that they would not have otherwise committed.

If a defendant can successfully prove they were entrapped, they may be acquitted of the charges against them.

Let’s dive deeper into this intriguing aspect of criminal law.


How Does Entrapment Work?

In simple terms, entrapment occurs when law enforcement officials, rather than merely presenting an opportunity for an individual to commit a crime, actively persuade or coerce that person into committing the crime.

If the crime hadn’t been achieved without the police’s undue influence, it might be considered entrapment.

To succeed in an entrapment defense, a defendant typically needs to show:

  • Inducement: Proof that law enforcement induced them to commit the crime.
  • Lack of Predisposition: Evidence that they weren’t predisposed to commit the crime without the influence of law enforcement.
  • Absence of Intention: Demonstrating they had no initial intention to commit the crime until the police persuaded them.

How Entrapment Differs from State to State

Entrapment, a complex and nuanced defense strategy, isn’t interpreted uniformly across the U.S.

Each state has its unique perspective on what constitutes entrapment and how it can be effectively utilized in court.

Arizona has its own set of criteria and benchmarks that must be met for a defendant to use the entrapment defense successfully. These criteria might include the nature of the interaction between the defendant and law enforcement, the intent of the defendant, and more.

This variance underscores the importance of securing representation from a criminal defense attorney deeply versed in Arizona law.

Only with such specialized knowledge can one navigate the intricacies of entrapment laws in the state and ensure the best possible defense.

Entrapment Example: The College Student’s Unwilling Drug Purchase

In Phoenix, Arizona, Sarah, a college student with an impeccable record, suddenly found herself in the middle of a drug bust. Unknown to her, a new acquaintance, Jake, who she had recently befriended on campus, was an undercover officer looking to crack down on drug activities.

Over several weeks, Jake repeatedly pressured Sarah, citing his fictional struggles and insisting that purchasing illegal drugs was the only solution to his problems. Sarah, feeling an overwhelming need to help her ‘friend,’ reluctantly agreed to buy the drugs on his behalf.

The sting operation was revealed when the transaction occurred, and Sarah was immediately arrested.

During her trial, her defense attorney argued the entrapment defense, illustrating how Jake, the undercover officer, had used emotional manipulation and undue pressure to coerce Sarah into committing a crime she had no prior inclination or intention to commit.

After examining the evidence, including text messages where Jake repeatedly pressed Sarah to purchase her initial refusals, the court concluded that it was a clear case of entrapment.

As a result, Sarah was acquitted of the charges against her.

police behavior

What Types Of Police Behavior Is Not Considered Entrapment?

Entrapment is a defense strategy that hinges on the belief that law enforcement induced or persuaded the defendant to commit a crime they otherwise would not have committed.

However, many types of police behavior do not fall under the category of entrapment.

Here are some examples:

  • Simply Providing an Opportunity: If the police merely provide a chance for someone to commit a crime, that’s not entrapment. For example, a sting operation where an undercover officer poses as a drug buyer to catch a seller isn’t considered entrapment if the seller willingly agrees.


  • Pre-existing Criminal Intent: If an individual is already predisposed to commit a crime, and the police only facilitated it, it’s not entrapment. For instance, if someone was planning a bank robbery and an undercover agent just provided them with a getaway car, that wouldn’t qualify as entrapment.
  • Use of Decoys or Sting Operations: Police use of decoys, such as undercover agents posing as minors in online chat rooms to catch potential predators, is typically not seen as entrapment. The intent to commit the crime must already exist in the suspect.
  • Passive Deception: Minor deceptions by law enforcement, like undercover officers not revealing their true identity, aren’t considered entrapment. The deception has to induce the criminal act actively.
  • Supplying Essential Items: If law enforcement provides materials or tools required for a crime (like counterfeit money), but the person is already inclined to commit the crime, it isn’t entrapment.

While these are general guidelines, it’s essential to remember that the interpretation of entrapment can vary from state to state, and specific circumstances can influence how a court views a particular scenario. Consult a knowledgeable attorney to understand how these principles apply in individual cases.

Top 10- FAQs about the Entrapment Defense

  • Can simply providing an opportunity be considered entrapment? No. If law enforcement allows a person to commit a crime without coercion or persuasion, it typically isn’t considered entrapment.


  • What does ‘predisposition’ mean in the context of entrapment? Predisposition refers to the defendant’s readiness or willingness to commit the crime before interacting with law enforcement. If a defendant is already inclined to commit the crime, it’s harder to claim entrapment.


  • How do courts determine whether there was an undue influence by law enforcement? Courts will look at factors like the nature of the crime, the defendant’s behavior, and the tactics used by law enforcement. Things like threats, fraud, or harassment by police can be indicators of undue influence.


  • Can the entrapment defense be used for any crime? While technically, it can be argued for various offenses; it’s most commonly used in cases involving vice crimes, like drug offenses or illegal gambling.


  • Is the entrapment defense frequently successful? It depends on the specifics of the case. If there’s clear evidence that law enforcement induced the crime, it can be a successful defense. However, if the defendant had a predisposition to commit the crime, it can be challenging to argue entrapment.


  • Does hiding an officer’s identity equal entrapment? Not necessarily. If a crime would’ve transpired irrespective of the undercover officer’s presence, entrapment under A.R.S. 13-206 (C) doesn’t apply.


  • Who bears the proof in entrapment claims? The defendant, as per A.R.S. 13-206 (B). Although generally, the prosecution carries this responsibility, entrapment, being an affirmative defense, reverses this role.


  • Is admitting the crime essential for an entrapment defense? Yes. A.R.S. 13-206 (A) necessitates that defendants recognize the primary components of the alleged crime.


  • Can mere opportunity by an officer be deemed entrapment? No. The officer must actively encourage or persuade the crime commission.


  • If the police, based on intel, catch criminals in action, is it entrapment? No. Without police instigation or persuasion, entrapment isn’t applicable.

CHM is Here to Defend Your Rights

The entrapment defense, while complex, plays a crucial role in ensuring a fair legal process. It prevents law enforcement from overstepping their boundaries and pressuring individuals into committing crimes they would otherwise avoid.

If you or someone you know faces criminal charges and believes there might be grounds for an entrapment defense, seeking expert legal counsel is imperative. 

Contact us at Colburn Hintze Maletta by dialing 602-825-2500.

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