Common Law Defense of Entrapment in Utah

Criminal Activity Cannot be Instigated by Police

Sometimes law enforcement resorts to unusual means to investigate crimes such as prostitution where participants and witnesses are unlikely to come forward to report them.  Undercover officers may pretend to be someone else to catch a person acting criminally.  When the government crosses the line between investigating a crime and instigating it, the entrapment defense comes into play.

The common law defense to entrapment come from the 1930’s US Supreme Court case Sorrells v. U.S. In this case a defendant was indicted for possessing and selling whiskey in violation of prohibition.  An undercover federal agent convinced Sorrells to provide him with liquor even after Sorrells refused several times.  The Court found that the agent had actually instigated the crime, so Sorrells’ criminal defense attorney could use the defense of entrapment to get him exonerated of the crime.

Entrapment Defense Must be Raised by Defendant

In subsequent cases, the Court has emphasized that the key question is distinguishing between “the trap for the unwary innocent and the trap for the unwary criminal.”  The defense is focused on the defendant’s predisposition to commit the crime, and is made out only where a Utah police officer procures commission of a crime by an individual not otherwise predisposed to commit it.  Where law enforcement officers act in a manner likely to instigate a criminal offense, such as continued pressure and inducement to buy child pornography, the entrapment defense would apply.

In raising the entrapment defense, the defendant has the initial burden of showing government inducement.  The burden then shifts to the government to show the defendant was predisposed to commit the violation.  Entrapment is usually a question decided by the jury, though on some occasions judges have found entrapment as a matter of law.

Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers Defend Entrapment Cases

If you have been charged or arrested for committing a criminal offense, and you believe you only committed the crime because Utah police coerced you into it, call the criminal defense attorneys from Salcido Law Firm.  The lawyers from Salcido Law Firm will help you protect your rights by raising the entrapment defense.  Call them today at 801.618.1334 for a free consultation.

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