Entrapment, according to the case of Sorrells vs. United States, is a scheme wherein a law enforcement officer plans to induce a person to commit a certain crime and then apprehend him afterwards. The concept of entrapment is to place to a person’s mind the intention to commit a crime, and induce him to actually commit it. Simply stated, it is a scheme to set up criminals by making them do a criminal act so that there will be evidence to show that they did the crime.
Entrapment operations have been used by law enforcement officers to get criminals. In fact, it is already an established practice done by police officers. While it is considered by many as one of the most effective ways of getting criminals, there are still some people who question its validity and legality. They argue that it is illegal because the government is not allowed to make a scheme intended to induce a person to do a crime. As such, many courts have decided that it is illegal.
The United States Supreme Court has stated in the case of Mathews vs. United States the two essential elements that a person must prove to raise the defense that his entrapment is illegal:
- The government is the one who induced the commission of the crime
To be a valid defense, a person must prove that the government, particularly a law enforcement officer, induced him to commit the criminal act. This is because most of the time, there are innocent individuals who fall victims to this scheme. Once apprehended, they will be considered suspects for a crime which they really did not intend to do. For instance, an officer disguising as a civilian carries an unlicensed firearm and gives it to another person. At the moment that person gets the firearm, authorities will apprehend him and charge him with illegal possession of firearms. To avail of the defense, he must prove that he was just induced to commit the alleged crime because of the scheme used by the government.
- The person must not have the intention to commit the crime
Another thing that a person must prove is that he does have any intention to do the criminal act. He must prove that he did not intend to do the criminal act, and he only did it because he was induced by an officer. For instance, a police officer disguises himself as a seller of drugs. When he approaches a person to sell it, intention is vital to keep the defense valid. If that person keeps the drugs without any desire to use it or to sell it, intention is not present; thus, the defense is valid. However, if upon offering the drugs, that person promptly accepts the offer, intention on his part is present; thus, the defense will fail.
Knowing when an entrapment is valid or not is important especially for those who have become victims to these schemes. While this practice is intended to get criminals, it can also affect innocent people and involve them in a crime which they did not intend to do.