At least once a week I get a call from a perspective client who wants to discuss a criminal case that he or she thinks is a classic case of entrapment. While the facts are always different a common theme underlies every story. An undercover police officer is involved in some sort of investigation. The officer is playing the part of a criminal or someone engaged in some sort of wrongdoing. My client takes the bait and enters into discussions and interaction with the officer. Then, either just prior to, or at the time of the consummation of the crime an arrest is made. My client claims to be the victim of entrapment. He’s right isn’t he? After all, he did not know that the person he dealt with was a cop. Shouldn’t they dismiss my case? Nope. This is not entrapment. It might be an underhanded police tactic. It might be a waste of the taxpayer’s money. But it is not entrapment.
Just the other day I read a story about a few guys in Brookline who were arrested for responding to online adds suggesting sexual encounters. The ads were placed on Craigslist by the Brookline police looking for people who trade sex for drugs. Perspective clients, looking for sex responded to a prearranged meeting place. When they got there they were met by undercover officers. The men identified themselves as the people who responded to the advertisement. They were then arrested and charged with sex for a fee, a prostitution related crime.
I get the same question from clients charged with drug dealing. They are introduced to an undercover police officer by an informant and negotiate and consummate a drug deal. Or, they solicit someone who appears to be a drug user at a location where drug deals frequently take place. However, the apparent drug customer is really a police officer. This too is not entrapment.
So exactly is entrapment in Massachusetts? It is an act by the government of putting the idea to commit a crime in the mind of an innocent person. In other words, if it were not for the actions of the government the act never would have occurred because the person committing the crime had no prior criminal disposition. Setting traps or tricking people already predisposed to committing these crimes is not entrapment. The criminal intent must originate with the police. As a practical matter however prevailing on an entrapment case requires more. There must be a showing that the police overcame the will of an otherwise innocent person. In fact, to win a case with this defense it is almost necessary to show coercion on the part of the police or someone acting on their behalf.
Anyone charged with a crime that involves police coercion or a constant badgering such that their will was overcome and they committed a crime might want to talk to their lawyer about the viability of an entrapment defense. Attorney Stephen Neyman has won several cases using this defense. If you think that you were the victim of police entrapment and you want to fight your criminal case call us at 617-263-6800 or send us an email.