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Understanding the entrapment defense in Pennsylvania

This blog has written on several occasions about police in Lackawanna County using "controlled" drug transactions as the basis for arresting and charging persons with various drug offenses. An important limit on the police's ability to use such tactics is the so-called "entrapment defense," a rule of the legal system that prevents police from inducing a person to commit a crime that the person was not otherwise inclined to commit.

Prior to 1972, the entrapment defense focused on the subjective mental state of the accused - was he or she inclined to commit the crime without police involvement? In 1972, the legislature changed the law to shift the focus to an objective evaluation of police conduct that may have induced the defendant to commit the crime.

To succeed in using the entrapment defense, the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the police or a person acting in cooperation with the police induced or encouraged the defendant to engage in criminal conduct by "(1) making knowingly false representations designed to induce the belief that such conduct is not prohibited, or (2) employing methods of persuasion or inducement which create a substantial risk that such an offense will be committed by persons other than those who are ready to commit it." If the jury finds that the police violated the statute, the defendant should be acquitted. The statute does not apply to crimes that involve causing or threatening bodily injury to the person who allegedly perpetrates the entrapment.

The entrapment defense is a powerful weapon in defending against overly zealous police conduct. Anyone charged with a crime that involves police conduct that may constitute entrapment may wish to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Such a consultation can provide a helpful analysis of the facts of the case and advice on the applicability of the entrapment defense.

Source: 18 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes ยง313, "Entrapment," accessed on Aug. 15, 2016.

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