All About Entrapment in Florida
July 13, 2021 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense Social Share
What is Entrapment?
Entrapment is an affirmative defense to a criminal charge when the defendant committed the crime only because of the coercion of a government official and, without such coercion, the crime would not have been committed. A valid entrapment defense may cause the court to dismiss the case.
Subjective entrapment focuses on the defendant and his or her predisposition to commit the charged offense. The first question posed in determining subjective entrapment is whether the government agent induced the defendant to commit the crime. If this question is answered in the affirmative, the second question is whether the accused was predisposed to commit the crime charged. In determining this, the defendant must establish a lack of predisposition and the prosecution must rebut that evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Objective entrapment focuses on the conduct of law enforcement and whether that conduct was egregious enough under the Florida Constitution’s due process clause. Regardless of a defendant’s predisposition to commit a criminal defense, inappropriate government conduct requires dismissal of the criminal charges on the basis of entrapment.
Objective entrapment is best illustrated in State v. Finno, where law enforcement officials were told that an individual was making plans to kill a sheriff. After a lengthy surveillance operation, the officers found no evidence of this claim. Instead of accepting that they were given bad information, the officers showed the defendant how to run a loan shark operation. After the defendant committed that crime, the officers arrested him. The case was thrown out, however, because the court found that the defendant had provided sufficient evidence of objective entrapment, as the officers had completely orchestrated the crime. The court stated that, “where the government supplies all of the instrumentalities of a crime, controls all of its aspects, and teaches the intended target how to commit the crime for the purpose of arresting him . . . there is no crime at all without the government involvement. No legitimate objective of government is accomplished by prosecuting a crime so totally and completely orchestrated by the government.”
A person prosecuted for a crime will be acquitted if he or she is able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that their criminal conduct occurred because of entrapment. Generally, a defendant who denies committing a crime cannot claim entrapment as a defense.
According to Florida Statute Section 777.201, the issue of entrapment must be tried by the jury. If there is evidence that suggests proof of entrapment, the defendant has the right to have the jury instructed on the rules applicable to the defense. The accused must bring forward evidence in support of the defense unless the facts relied on cause a reasonable doubt of guilt to rise in the minds of the jury. Without such facts, the accused has the burden of establishing that the government induced him to commit the offense and he has a lack of predisposition to commit the offense. The State is permitted to explore the defendant’s criminal history when relevant to the issue of predisposition.
Exceptions and Insufficient Acts to Constitute Entrapment
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