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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

What Is the Entrapment Law in California? | Tackling Unfair Prosecution!

Under criminal law, the defendant has the constitutional right to use different legal defenses depending on the facts surrounding their case. In some cases involving police interference, the defendant may be able to use the entrapment defense.


The criminal attorneys in Sacramento at Goss Law in Sacramento, California, have extensive experience in representing defendants and helping them avoid prison sentences or reducing their charges. They can help those facing charges understand the entrapment laws and guide them on their legal options.


What Is the Entrapment Law in California?

What Is the Entrapment Law in California?


Entrapment, in criminal law, refers to a situation where a police officer lures a normally "law-abiding person" to commit a crime that they would not have committed if it weren't for the law enforcement officer.


A police officer could entrap an individual in many different ways, including harassment, fraud, coercion, flattery, or threats.


Using the entrapment defense strategy can be extremely complicated and requires certain conditions to exist for the defense to stand in the criminal court.


The entrapment defense strategy may not work if the police officer merely presents the defendant with the opportunity to commit a crime. This is because any reasonable person would resist the temptation of breaking the law. Goss Law can give more information on the question Is entrapment illegal in California?


How Can the Defendant Effectively Use the Entrapment Defense?


In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the burden of proof and must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime.


However, if the defendant decides to use a legal defense, the burden of proof lies with them, and they must prove that they are not guilty by a preponderance of the evidence.


It is important to note that the entrapment defense only applies to law enforcement officers and those acting as agents under their direction. If a private citizen coerces an individual to commit a crime, the offender cannot use the entrapment defense.


To successfully use the entrapment defense, the defendant must provide evidence that the law enforcement officer was more likely than not responsible for coercing or inducing them into committing the charged offense.


A key thing to remember is that California law does not protect the defendant if the officer provides assurance that they're not setting them up.


Police officers can use reasonable tactics to gain an individual's trust, but they cannot give the following guarantees to a normally law-abiding person:

  • The crime isn't illegal;

  • The actions will go undetected;

  • The potential of making huge rewards; or

  • The potential to make friendships or gain sympathy.


An Example of an Entrapment Case


The defendants use the entrapment defense in cases involving government sting operations against drug smuggling, sex trafficking, and other similar crimes.


One of the most common examples that can trigger the entrapment defense is when an undercover police officer describes themselves as a gay man and convinces other gay men to perform sexual acts in public.


Below is an example to help illustrate a situation where the entrapment defense may be a viable strategy to pursue:


Johnathon goes to use the bathroom in a public park in Sacramento, California. Steven, an undercover police officer, closely follows Johnathon and tries to convince him to carry out sexual acts. Johnathon refuses the request, but Steven blocks the door and promises that no one will come in and that there are no legal repercussions of the act. Eventually, Johnathon agrees, and when he touches the officer, he gets arrested.


In the example mentioned above, if Johnathon were quick to respond to Steven's request, he would be liable for the crime committed. However, he denied the request multiple times before agreeing after being convinced that the act was not illegal. In such a situation, Johnathon can use the entrapment defense and hold the officer responsible for the crime.


Are the California Entrapment Laws Similar to Admitting Guilt?


When using the entrapment defense, it may seem like the defendant agrees to have committed the crime. However, under the law, it's completely the opposite.


The defendant can maintain their innocence by providing evidence that the police officer induced them into committing the act and, therefore, they're the ones guilty of the crime.


Below is an example to help illustrate how a defendant may be able to maintain their innocence after being induced to commit a crime:


Ben, an undercover officer, harasses Jack into obtaining marijuana as part of the police department's newly launched mission. Jack tries to avoid interaction with Ben, who keeps on harassing him for the drugs. Eventually, Jack scores a bag of marijuana and hands it over to Ben, who immediately arrests him for the possession of drugs under the Health and Safety Code 11351 HS.


With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, Jack can use the entrapment defense, stating that the undercover police officer harassed him into committing the criminal act. He can also maintain his innocence because he did not intend to sell the drugs.


Is There a Difference Between Entrapment and Outrageous Conduct Carried Out by Law Enforcement Officials?


Although both are legal defenses the defendant may use to have the criminal charges dismissed, they are different.


When a defendant uses the entrapment legal defense, they leave the jury to decide whether the law enforcement officer induced the normally law-abiding person into committing the crime.


On the other hand, it is the judge who gets to decide whether or not the law enforcement officer's actions fall under the definition of "outrageous" conduct.


How to Prove Entrapment in a Criminal Defense Case in Sacramento, California

How to Prove Entrapment in a Criminal Defense Case in Sacramento, California


The laws on entrapment defense may vary from one state to the other. In California, the defendant must prove the following if they use this legal defense:

  • They wouldn't have committed the crime if the law enforcement official hadn't coerced, persuaded, or convinced them in any way to carry out the offense; or

  • They wouldn't have committed the crime had the law enforcement agents not encouraged the act in a way that created a risk for the defendant.

In response to the evidence provided by the defendant, the prosecutors can argue and present evidence that demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender would've committed the crime regardless of whether or not the government agent encouraged, persuaded, or coerced them.


An experienced criminal defense attorney can assess the circumstances surrounding the case and determine whether proceeding with an entrapment defense would be a viable strategy.


Goss Law Can Help Protect the Rights of the Defendants in Sacramento, California!


Those who believe they were victims of an entrapment case in Sacramento, California, should call to schedule a free consultation with the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Goss Law. They have the knowledge and expertise to determine whether the defendant has a valid entrapment defense and can protect their rights in court.

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