If you have ever seen a television show like Undercover Stings or To Catch a Predator, you may have wondered about the legality of such operations. In the show To Catch a Predator, for example, adults pretend to be teenagers or children online in order to lure suspected sex offenders. They begin chatting with someone and eventually invite him or her to their “house.” The address that they really invite the unsuspecting chatter to is actually a sting house where the person is often arrested for solicitation of a minor.
How can police legally pretend to be someone they are not in order to catch another in a criminal act? In order to conduct sting operations like this, police must walk a very fine line between legal actions and entrapment.
Entrapment is an unlawful practice in which a police officer or other government agent encourages or forces someone to commit a criminal offense that they would have otherwise not committed. Entrapment occurs when two circumstances are present. Firstly, police must “induce” the crime to take place. This means that they officers themselves bring about the criminal act. Secondly, the defendant must not have had the predisposition to commit the crime on his or her own. Put another way, if the defendant would not have committed the crime if not for the persuasion from police, this can be considered entrapment. On To Catch a Predator, the sting operators and police avoid such issues by allowing the alleged sex offender to make the first move.
Police often use sting operations to try to catch suspected drug dealers or those allegedly soliciting prostitutes. However, sometimes those sting operations cross the line into illegal entrapment. If it can be proven that entrapment took place and was the cause of a person’s criminal activity, this will result in a not guilty verdict.
Entrapment is an affirmative defense. This means that a criminal defendant and his or her legal counsel must convince a judge or jury “by a preponderance of evidence” that police induced the crime. Police are allowed to provide an opportunity for people to commit a crime, but not actually coerce someone to break the law. Proving such behavio, however, can be extremely challenging. It is critical that you seek assistance from a criminal defense lawyer with experience handling entrapment cases if you believe you have been a victim of illegal activity by police.
If you have been accused of a crime, you need help from an experienced San Jose crimes defense lawyer. Schedule a consultation with Wesley J. Schroeder, Attorney at Law, by calling 408-277-0377 today.