What is Entrapment?

According to California law, entrapment – a legal defense term – is used to explain a situation in which a law-abiding individual was enticed by police to commit a crime he or she did not intend to commit.(1)

If a skilled criminal defense attorney is able to prove a person did not intend to break the law, but rather was lured into doing so by an officer, criminal charges legally would be dropped due to entrapment.

Entrapment often is a result of someone being persuaded or tricked by law enforcement to do a criminal act. California law explains the individual had to be under intense pressure or flattery or even threatened to commit the crime in order for entrapment to be proved.

If one is using entrapment as his or her defense, a prosecutor must prove otherwise “beyond a reasonable doubt.” (2)

It is important to understand entrapment only can be utilized when a crime has been committed under persuasion by the police and not by a citizen. However, the person did not have to know the individual was working for the police at the time he or she was lured into a criminal act. (3)

Entrapment can be claimed under California Penal Code 647a when the idea to engage an illegal activity was planted in the individual’s head by law enforcement.

When could entrapment be used as a defense in California?

Some crimes very well may have resulted from coercion or fraud by law personnel and can be defended in a court of law. These specifically could be drug crimes or sex crimes. For example, acts associated with these crimes could have been committed in response to an undercover sting operation.

Furthermore, undercover operations that lead to the charge of California Penal Code 647 (a) lewd conduct in public; California Penal Code 647 (b) prostitution; or California Penal Code 311 child pornography are likely to have resulted from an entrapment situation.

Keep in mind, a criminal defense attorney has to be able to prove it was a police officer’s overbearing behavior, often taking place on multiple occasions, that ultimately led to the criminal activity being proposed. Sting  operations are legal and the aforementioned charges could have resulted from an offer made by an officer and not due to intense pressure or harassment.

It is up to the criminal defense attorney to show the jury the criminal act would not have been the first choice of his or her client, and he or she would not have committed the crime if they had not been coaxed by an officer. To show entrapment, an attorney must prove an officer acted inappropriately, often badgering the person to commit the illegal act. (4)

Still seeking additional information on entrapment?

Criminal history is not relevant when it comes to California entrapment laws. These laws focus on the behavior of the police personnel and their involvement in the proposed criminal act. (5)

To better understand when entrapment could be used as a defense in California, here is an example.

Prostitution, in particular, is a crime often brought to light in California through the use of sting operations. According to California Penal Code 647(b), it is illegal to solicit, agree to participate in and/or engage in prostitution.

Often, an undercover agent will attempt to lure an individual to exchange compensation for sexual activity. Suppose the undercover agent, “Jane”, approaches “Bob”, asking if she could show him a “good time.” Perhaps, “Bob” first ignores “Jane”, even walks away, but she continues to try to entice him into an agreement.

She may even make comments including, “I am the best in San Diego,” or “I bet you are wonderful in bed.” “Jane” proceeds to follow “Bob” on his route, maybe even begging for his affection, before he gives in and asks for the price of her service. A criminal defense attorney is able to get the charge against “Bob” dropped because he was entrapped by “Jane.”

Let’s consider one more fictitious example of criminal entrapment in California. If an individual has been charged with Health and Safety Code 11351 possession of drugs for sale, he or she may feel there is no way to defend this charge in court. However, he may have obtained the drugs thinking he was helping someone and never intended to sell them.

In California, undercover operations are a big component of ongoing drug investigations. Perhaps, the police know that “Joe” has a history of narcotic abuse so they seek him out to see if he still is engaged in such behavior. They send “Sam” asking “Joe” over and over again to get him heroine so he can ease significant pain resulting from a medical condition. “Joe” may turn “Sam” down several times before giving into his harassment and getting a hold of drugs to give to “Sam.”

This situation could successfully be shown as an incident of entrapment under California’s entrapment laws.

What’s the next step?

Are you facing a charge that you believe resulted from entrapment? Contact the Law Office of Peter Blair to discuss your case and further review California’s entrapment laws. After your cases is analyzed, the best approach for your situation will be determined. It is important to establish an entrapment defense to get the charge dropped so you can move on from the unfortunate occurrence. Call us for a free initial meeting at (619) 357-4977 today.


1 People v. Barraza, (1979) 23 Cal.3d 675, 689
2 People v. West, (1956) 139 Cal.App.2d Supp. 923, 924
3,4 People v. Gregg, (1970) 5 Cal.App.3d 502, 505
5 California Jury Instructions – Criminal – CALJIC 4.61 – Entrapment-Objective Test-Guidance