When a person is arrested and charged with a crime in the United States, the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is not required to prove anything nor admit any evidence. In some cases, however, a defendant may choose to assert the affirmative defense of entrapment. An entrapment defense basically claims that the defendant committed the crime but would not have done so but for the actions of law enforcement officials. In order for an entrapment defense to work, the defendant must convince the court that he or she had no predisposition to commit the crime and that the actions of the law enforcement officers would have induced any law-abiding person to commit the crime.
Although the defense of entrapment exists, it is difficult to prove. Entrapment does not include situations where law enforcement officials simply provided the opportunity for someone to commit a crime if the person was someone who was likely to commit the crime, with or without the help of law enforcement. In other words, if a drug addict is approached by an undercover law enforcement agent and offered drugs, entrapment is not likely to work as a defense since the defendant would have likely bought drugs from anyone.
The first test in proving an entrapment defense looks at the defendant himself or herself. The issue is whether or not the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime for which he or she was charged. This is a subjective test and looks at many factors, most important of which is often the defendant's criminal history, or lack thereof. If a defendant has never been arrested before, then he or she stands a better chance of convincing the court that he or she was not predisposed to commit the crime.
The second test is considered an objective test and focuses on the conduct of the law enforcement officials. When the conduct or actions of the law enforcement officials would have caused the average, law-abiding citizen to commit a crime, then it may be considered entrapment. Although this is considered an objective test, exactly what conduct would push an otherwise law-abiding citizen to commit a crime is certainly open to debate.
The Supreme Court of the United States has defined entrapment to include both the subjective state of mind test and the objective conduct test. While the defense is a valid defense, proving it may be difficult. Consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney is advised if the defense is being considered.