If you were arrested and charged with a crime based on evidence gathered or presented by undercover law enforcement officers and/or confidential informants (CIs) working for law enforcement, you may be wondering whether you can use an “entrapment” defense. There are some instances where that’s appropriate. However, it’s important to understand what actually constitutes entrapment before you commit to this strategy.
Law enforcement agencies at virtually every level use undercover officers and CIs. Sometimes they’ll “infiltrate” a group that they believe is engaged in criminal activity. Other times, they’re used to get evidence that a person is committing criminal offenses. Both strive to gain the trust of those they’re attempting to “catch” – and can legally lie if asked directly whether they’re working for law enforcement. Often, people become CIs in exchange for having charges against them dropped or reduced.
What constitutes entrapment?
Law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to ensure that no one who’s working for them – officer or civilian — engages in entrapment. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has defined entrapment as “the inducement of one to commit a crime not contemplated by him for the mere purpose of instituting criminal prosecution against him.”
Trained law enforcement officers are typically better at walking this line than CIs are. However, that’s not always the case. Some can get carried away trying to prove that someone is a criminal.
Can you prove entrapment?
This typically isn’t an easy defense to present. Often, what has happened is a matter of one person’s word against another’s. You’ll need to show that you were tricked, threatened or otherwise “induced” to commit a crime you otherwise wouldn’t have. If the case goes to trial, a jury will need to look at the overall circumstances as well as how much hesitation or resistance you presented when being induced to commit a criminal offense.
Undercover agents and CIs can be used to catch those committing drug crimes, theft and property offenses, white-collar crimes and more. Whatever the offense you’ve been charged with, if you believe you were a victim of entrapment, it’s imperative that you have experienced legal guidance to help protect your rights and work towards the best possible outcome for your case.