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What Constitutes Entrapment in Criminal Law?

As heavy as criminal charges can be, the idea that a police officer would coerce someone into committing a crime, only to later arrest the same person, is particularly galling. That is why entrapment exists as an affirmative defense for someone accused of a crime, though entrapment is not by itself a crime that can be independently punished. Keep reading to learn what entrapment is. If you believe a state official like a police officer coerced you into committing a crime, be sure to reach out to a Bergen County criminal defense attorney right away

Defining Entrapment

Entrapment is an affirmative legal defense. It alleges that a government official, like a police officer, used threats, fraud, or harassment against the defendant until they committed a crime they otherwise would not have.

Affirmative defenses are so classified because they bring attention to new facts or issues that recontextualize the behavior the defendant was accused of committing. Rather than denying you did the behavior, an affirmative defense says that you acknowledge you did indeed perform the behavior, but it should not be considered a crime for the reason your defense specifies.

Elements of Entrapment

If you allege entrapment as the reason you should not be found guilty, you will need to prove three elements.

The person you accuse of committing entrapment must be a government agent and not a private citizen. In many circumstances, this will be a police officer.

The actions that you allege constitute entrapment must be inducements, coercions, or lies meant to convince you to commit a crime you would not have committed in the absence of such threats or lies. It cannot be that the government agent only presented you with an opportunity to commit a crime.


The burden of proof for an entrapment defense is “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that to be successful, you as the defendant must convince the court that it is more likely than not that the police officer in question tried to induce you to commit a crime you would not have committed on your own.

To wrap up, an example of entrapment:

A young man is charged with selling narcotics. The young man’s defense alleges entrapment as an affirmative legal defense by claiming that the officer who arrested him had been working undercover and threatened the young man with sending others to beat him up if he refused to sell.

If you have any questions, or you’ve been charged with a crime and need a competent criminal defense attorney in your corner, contact our legal team today.

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