When a person is accused of committing a crime, entrapment is one of the possible defenses available. Asserting this defense means that the accused must prove that he or she would not have committed the crime in question without the pressure from law enforcement agents. This can be a complicated issue to argue, as it involves examining whether the agents' actions constituted extreme pressure as well as whether the defendant would have otherwise pursued this course of action. It is important to note that while this sounds as if invoking the entrapment defense means admitting that you committed the crime, the law permits a defendant to deny committing the crime and to assert, in the alternative, that his or her actions stem from being entrapped.
Actions by law enforcement
The first thing to understand about entrapment is that it is not the same thing as simply presenting an opportunity to commit a crime. Thus, an undercover officer who approaches a corporate insider and suggests a scheme for illegal insider trading is not entrapping the insider. At this point, the insider can either accept the scheme or reject it, depending on whether or not he or she is willing to commit a crime. The fact that the scheme originated from the undercover agent is not a defense.
On the other hand, entrapment can be more easily shown if the agent puts a large amount of pressure on the insider, enough that it is reasonable to think that a normal, law-abiding person would buckle under it. In most white-co llar scenarios, there will not be an undercover agent menacing the defendant with a gun. However, it is possible to show entrapment with less extreme types of pressure. Factors can include the degree of the agent's involvement beyond simply putting a scheme on the table and threats to the insider's livelihood or reputation.
The defendant's intent
There are also factors that can make it harder for a defendant to assert an entrapment defense, even in cases where law enforcement agents acted in a demonstrably inappropriate way. Most often, an entrapment defense will fail if the defendant has prior convictions for this type of crime. The reasoning is that if the insider did this kind of thing previously, it is not likely that, in this particular instance, he or she only did it because of the agent's actions.
White-collar prosecutions tend to be complex cases that can involve both federal and state law enforcement. If you have concerns about potential or ongoing involvement in a white-collar criminal case, speak with an experienced attorney as soon as you can. Developing a strong defense strategy early on in your case is the best way to ensure that you are able to assert the legal defenses available to you.