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Entrapment as a Defense

August 07, 2018

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

In an attempt to stop crimes before they happen, law enforcement may employ tactics that border on illegal, such as helping or enticing someone to commit a crime. While providing the materials for someone to commit a crime or giving them information may not necessarily be illegal, “entrapment” is against the law. Entrapment occurs when law enforcement encourages a person to commit a crime when they otherwise would not have committed it, and the person actually does carry through with the crime due to the enticement by police. Police often use such tactics for drug crimes, such as sales or distribution or solicitation to prostitution. Because the crime being committed occurs within a police-controlled environment, the offense is usually one without a victim, called a victimless crime.

What is Entrapment?

Under Pennsylvania Criminal Code § 313, entrapment is as follows:

When a law enforcement official or individual working with law enforcement carries out the following acts with the purpose of obtaining evidence of the commission of an offense, they cannot encourage or induce another person to commit the offense by any of the following means:

  • By making knowingly false claims with the purpose of inducing the other person to believe that a particular act is not illegal. An example of this would be to trick a person into buying “just a small amount” of heroin because “anything under six grams is not illegal,” which is of course false; or
  • By using a level of persuasion or means of inducement that would create a substantial risk that the offense in question could be committed by a person who is not ready to commit said offense. A high profile example of questionable entrapment and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) manipulation, which has happened time and again since 9/11, would be to encourage a young, impressionable person, typically Muslim, to commit a terrorist act by posing as a terrorist organization, encouraging them to change their views, and supplying them with an explosive device and plans to detonate the device at a given time and location–all when they would have otherwise not committed the act. Such is the situation of a Milwaukee resident, as reported by, who claims he was “manipulated by overzealous FBI agents.”

Entrapment Acquittal

A defendant can be acquitted of the crime when they prove that they have been the target of entrapment. However, the burden of proof does fall on the defendant to prove that their conduct occurred as a direct result of entrapment. This can be more complicated than it seems, as there will undoubtedly be a strong denial by the police in question, and having enough evidence to prove your innocence can be rare. Additionally, if the defendant caused or threatened bodily injury as part of the offense, and that threat or cause of bodily injury was to someone other than the person perpetrating the entrapment (police officer), the charges will not be acquitted even if entrapment can be proven.

A Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer is Here to Help

If you were coerced into committing a victimless crime by entrapment, you must contact a Philadelphia criminal attorney immediately. Call the law offices of van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim today for experienced criminal defense.



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