Houston Criminal Defense Blog

Entrapment 101: Have the police coerced you?

bad cop

As a general rule, blaming someone else for your own conduct is not a good idea. It also is not a very good defense when you are in a Houston courtroom facing criminal charges. There is an exception in cases in which a person can prove that police played an active role in inducing or persuading the commission of the criminal conduct.

Houston entrapment defense

Most states allow a defendant charged with committing a crime to plead entrapment as a defense. A person raising this as a defense is claiming that were it not for the persuasion and inducement of law enforcement agents, the crime could not have been committed.

The burden of proving entrapment is on the defendant. There must be evidence establishing that the individual would not have committed the crime except for the encouragement of the police. Just because police offered someone the opportunity is not enough to prove the defense of entrapment.

Sting operations may not be entrapment

Providing the means and the opportunity for you to commit a crime is at the core of police sting operations, but that does not mean that police are guilty of entrapment. Putting an undercover police office on the street to buy drugs, as occurs in sting operations run by law enforcement agencies throughout the state, is an example of offering the opportunity for someone to commit a crime.

By selling drugs to an undercover police officer, you are exhibiting a predisposition to committing the criminal act. All the police did was to offer you the opportunity to commit the crime without encouraging or enticing you to do it.

A recent television series documented the activities of police departments throughout the country as they used bait cars to catch car thieves. The vehicles were equipped with cameras to record the activities of individuals who tried to steal the vehicles. Use of such a vehicle would probably not be entrapment if all the police did was leave it parked, with the ignition key clearly visible and unattended on a Houston street.

Even though the key is in the ignition, the entrapment defense law assumes that most people passing by the vehicle would normally not jump into the driver’s seat and drive away in a car they did not own. Only a person predisposed to committing such a crime would do so.

However, the situation might change to create a potential entrapment defense if an undercover police officer is on the scene to point out the unattended vehicle to a person passing by and direct the individual’s attention to the key left in the ignition. The entrapment defense could be even clearer and stronger if the officer verbally encourages the individual to take the car for a ride.

Predisposition to committing a crime

Prosecutors have the burden, once a Houston criminal defense attorney raises entrapment as a defense to prove that the defendant committing the criminal act without being enticed or persuaded to do so by the police. Proving that a person was predisposed to committing the crime is not as difficult as it might seem.

A person charged with stealing one of the bait cars might claim entrapment, but the defense would be difficult to support if the individual had a prior criminal record. If the prosecutor in the case proves that the accused car thief had prior convictions for stealing cars, jurors could reasonably conclude that they were dealing with a defendant who was inclined to commit the crime without any encouragement from the police once the opportunity was presented.

Houston law Enforcement agents and entrapment

The entrapment defense cannot be used in a criminal case unless the person charged with the crime was induced to commit it by a law enforcement agent. In Houston, this would be any member of a state, federal or local police or law enforcement agency.

Inducement or persuasion by a civilian usually would not constitute entrapment, but there is an exception that a Houston criminal defense attorney might be able to exploit in a particular case. Although the entrapment defense law focuses on law enforcement personnel, such as police officers, a civilian acting at the direction of a police officer to entice a defendant into committing the crime create an entrapment defense.

A Houston criminal defense attorney could help

Successful use of the entrapment defense in a criminal trial requires a clear understanding of the statute and the skills to present evidence to prove the facts to support it. A Houston criminal defense attorney knows the penal code and the various defenses it offers to an individual accused of committing a crime.

Contact the Law Offices of Billy Skinner

If you need strong entrapment defense, contact the the Law Office of Billy Skinner immediately. We will fight hard to protect your rights and freedom. Call 713-600-7777 or email today.

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Categories: Criminal Defense