However, in some cases, individuals may ignorantly comply with the requests of an undercover agent in a way that they would not without the involvement and encouragement of law enforcement. A common defense to an allegation of a white collar crime is that of entrapment.
Entrapment occurs when officers or other government agents induce another person through their actions to commit a crime that had not been contemplated by that person in an attempt to eventually prosecute the person for the offense.
Elements of Entrapment
Although the prosecution has the duty to establish that the criminal defendant committed each element of the crime, entrapment is considered an affirmative defense. It does not prevent the prosecution from bringing forth the charges against the defendant. A defendant who alleges entrapment must prove a number of things, including that the government agent approached the defendant and was the one who introduced the idea of the crime. Additionally, the defendant must establish that he or she was not willing to commit the crime and only did so because the law enforcement agent acted in a coercive or otherwise improper manner.
Objective or Subjective Standard
The defendant often has a heightened burden to show that law enforcement’s actions would have induced any other law-abiding citizen to commit the crime or that the defendant lacked the predisposition to commit the crime. The standard which applies depends on whether the state uses an objective or subjective standard according to its own state law.
In an objective standard state, the defendant has to show that the actions of law enforcement would have caused any law-abiding citizen to commit a crime. With this standard, the emphasis of the case is on the law enforcement agent’s conduct and how it was extreme in nature.
In states that use a subjective standard, the question is whether the defendant had a predisposition to commit the crime in question or not. This is considered regardless of police actions. This standard focuses more on the defendant. Ultimately, the jury is tasked with determining whether the police officer’s conduct solely motivated the defendant or if his or her own predisposition was what drove the commission of the crime even if police actions were extreme or inappropriate.
Burden of Proof
In a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proving the elements by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has the burden of showing entrapment by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that it is more likely than not the way that the defendant alleges. Even if the defendant can establish entrapment, the defendant may not be entitled to a finding of not guilty. For example, in states that use the subjective standard, the jury must then determine whether the defendant committed the crime due to his or her own predisposition rather than because of police actions.