What Is an Entrapment Defense?


Entrapment is a possible defense to many types of crimes.  The defense consists of the argument that the crime originated with law enforcement officials or someone acting at the direction of law enforcement and that the person charged would not have committed the crime absent the influence of law enforcement.  When law enforcement merely provides the opportunity for a person to commit a crime, this is not enough to show that the person charged was entrapped into committing the crime. The person charged must be induced or lured into committing the crime by law enforcement. ] A lack of similar offenses in the accused person’s criminal history helps in showing inducement by law enforcement.

What Types of Crimes Might Be Defended with an Entrapment Defense?

Entrapment is a possible defense to any crime, but there are certain crimes that often lend themselves to this defense. Crimes that arise out of “sting” operations where undercover officers pose as sex workers in cases where people are charged with sexual exploitation (formerly patronizing a prostitute) or where undercover officers pose online as underage person conversing with someone about sex are good examples of cases where there may be an entrapment defense.  

Other cases where entrapment may be a defense are drug cases where an informant is acting at the direction of law enforcement in setting up drug transactions or child pornography cases where law enforcement is involved suggesting to a target that they can provide images to that person.

What Is a Sentencing Entrapment Defense?

Sentencing entrapment is an argument that, although the accused person committed the offense, law enforcement acted in ways to induce the accused person to commit a much more serious offense than they would have committed without the influence and inducement by law enforcement. Examples of this are drug cases in which an informant (acting at the direction of law enforcement) proposes larger and larger drug deals with the accused person or where the informant suggests the accused person should have safety concerns and induces them to bring a firearm to a drug deal, which the accused would not otherwise have done on their own.

Can a Private Citizen Engage in Entrapment?

An entrapment defense is not available when a private citizen acting on their own induces another person to commit a crime. Entrapment is only a defense when law enforcement works with someone outside of law enforcement who is acting at the direction of authorities in inducing the accused to commit a crime or law enforcement on their own induces the accused to commit a crime.

Barriers to Bringing an Entrapment Defense

It is not enough for law enforcement to simply provide a person with an opportunity to commit a crime, law enforcement must be involved in inducing or luring a person to commit a crime the accused would not otherwise have committed in order for an entrapment defense to be available.  It is best if the accused has no prior criminal convictions, or no prior similar convictions, to show that without the influence of law enforcement, the accused never would have committed the crime on their own.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.