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What Is Entrapment in New Jersey?

When a law enforcement official like a police officer threatens, harasses, or lies to someone to persuade them to commit a crime, that is known as entrapment. A defendant would need to prove that absent this pressure being put on them, they wouldn’t have committed the crime. If they can convincingly demonstrate this to the court, then they may have a successful entrapment defense. Proving entrapment in New Jersey is a tricky matter, especially given the preferential bias in favor of police officers. If you believe that you were coerced into committing a crime you never would have otherwise, call a Bergen County criminal defense attorney and we’ll fight hard on your behalf.

Entrapment Defined Under New Jersey Law

Certain investigations can, understandably, require a police officer to work undercover. Undercover work is accepted and allowed under state and federal law. What is not allowed, however, is entrapment.

The Garden State defines entrapment as convincing or encouraging a suspect to commit a crime they would not have committed without said encouragement. Specifically, New Jersey legislation states that entrapment is either:

When a public law enforcement official (or an agent of that official) falsely claims to someone that an illegal action is legal, to persuade them to commit the illegal action, or
When a law enforcement officer (or an agent of that official) threatens, persuades, or convinces someone to do an illegal action that they would not have otherwise committed.

Entrapment Examples

Here are some examples of entrapment:

  • An officer is undercover and requests someone to sell them illegal drugs, though this person refuses over and over. Badgering like this is understood to be entrapment.
  • An undercover officer abuses a substance abuse problem or economic problem someone has to convince them to do something illegal.
  • A police officer tries to coerce someone into taking illegal action by threatening to have their child taken away unless they comply.
  • A police officer lies to someone, claiming that an illegal tax deduction is actually legal.

Legality of Entrapment

Entrapment isn’t permitted under the law, but it is not punishable by law either. It is important to understand that while entrapment is acknowledged as unethical by law enforcement authorities, New Jersey legislation does not explicitly outlaw entrapment.

What New Jersey law does allow is for a defendant to use entrapment as an affirmative defense. To succeed, a defendant would need to demonstrate that:

  • Whoever pressured them to do the illegal action was a police officer, another kind of public law enforcement officer, or an agent of a police officer.
  • This officer or agent either lied to the defendant or otherwise coerced them into committing a crime.
  • The defendant would not have committed the crime absent the officer’s or agent’s unethical interference.
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