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Understanding your rights: What is entrapment?

If you get arrested for a crime, it’s important to fully understand your rights. In some cases, the authorities may have violated those rights during the arrest or the very commission of the crime itself. That’s what happens in entrapment cases.

Essentially, entrapment means that the authorities enticed you to commit a crime just so that they could arrest you. This violates a legal theory stating that “[g]overnment agents may not originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and then induce commission of the crime so that the Government may prosecute.”

If you were not predisposed to commit the crime and the authorities are the ones who caused you to do it, that’s entrapment.

For instance, perhaps you’ve never thought about stealing a car in your life. Then, while you’re walking home, a man comes up to you and asks if you’ll help him steal a nearby BMW for $1,000. Seeing a quick way to make $1,000, you agree to do it, and the man then reveals that he’s a police officer, and he arrests you. That’s entrapment.

However, the authorities can give you a chance to break the law, as long as you make the decision yourself. For example, they sometimes leave “bait cars” in areas with a lot of car thefts. They then watch and arrest anyone who attempts to steal them. If you tried to take that car, you couldn’t claim it was entrapment, because they didn’t make you do it or encourage it.

These cases can be complicated. It’s important to know your rights and defense options.