In order to charge someone with a crime, police must have some evidence. Often that evidence includes forensics such as fingerprints or DNA, but it can also include the accounts of witnesses who actually saw the person commit the crime. What makes a case even stronger is when the witness is a police officer. This is why law enforcement often uses undercover officers to catch someone in the act. However, police must walk a delicate line to avoid entrapment.
While Ohio law enforcement efforts are focused on making streets and neighborhoods safe, it is not uncommon for officers to step over the lines of lawful actions and violate someone's rights in order to make an arrest. If an undercover officer recently apprehended you, you may wish to seek advice about the circumstances surrounding your arrest.
The elements of entrapment
Police have some leeway when staging an undercover drug operation. They can pretend to be drug dealers and sell illegal substances, even large quantities of drugs. They can lie to you. In fact, it is a myth that a police officer must admit he or she is a cop if you ask.
What police may not do is to entrap you. Entrapment occurs when police coerce or force you to commit a crime you would not otherwise have committed. However, it is very difficult to prove that an officer entrapped you. A court faced with a defense strategy of entrapment will look at these factors:
- Were you predisposed to committing the offense? In other words, if you are charged with purchasing drugs, the court will want to know if you have a drug addiction.
- Would you likely have committed the offense even if police had not provided the opportunity?
- Do you have a previous record of arrests for the same crime?
You will not be the only one under a microscope, however. While your predisposition to committing the crime carries the most weight, the courts will also examine the actions of the officer to determine if he or she behaved in any way that would induce someone to commit the crime even if the person had no predisposition to it. Merely offering you the opportunity to make the purchase is not entrapment, but it may be if the officer used threats or made promises.
Determining whether you were predisposed to committing a crime can be rather subjective, and you would be right to seek legal advice if you feel a police officer entrapped you into committing a crime. Claiming you were entrapped will require a strong defense strategy.