Entrapment in Arizona

Introduction to Entrapment in Arizona

You often hear the term “entrapment” thrown around fairly frequently in the movies, but it actually is a criminal defense that is regularly used. Another line that is often heard in the movies is “you have to tell me if you are a police officer, right?” That statement goes directly to the fear of entrapment from individuals. The line of how far the police can go to arrest the defendant of an alleged crime is not always clear but the law does its best to provide clarity.

Entrapment Generally

Entrapment generally speaking is an interaction between police officers and the defendant prior to, or during, the alleged crime.i The typical entrapment scenario occurs when law enforcement officers use coercion and other overbearing tactics to induce someone to commit a crime.ii Entrapment does not always have a clear line that the line must abide by in each case. The facts of every case will determine whether or not entrapment has occurred, or if all of the proper police procedures were taken and abided by.

Who Can Entrap?

When someone claims they were a victim of entrapment, it will only be considered by the court if the entrapment took place by a police officer or another public official.iii Private individuals are not able entrap individuals under the legal standard. So if one individual convinces his friend to complete a drug deal, and the friend gets caught doing this, the friend will not have a legal argument for entrapment. Now, if an undercover police office convinces a person to complete a drug deal, there could be an entrapment defense brought up.

Burden of Proof for Entrapment

entrapment in ArizonaEntrapment is considered to be an affirmative defense.iv An affirmative defense is a defense in which the defendant will introduce evidence, which, if found to be credible, will negate criminal or civil liability, even if it is prove that the defendant committed the alleged acts.v With entrapment, the defendant will have the burden of proof of convincing the jurors “by a preponderance of the evidence” that entrapment took place.vi In a state that employs an objective test of entrapment, a conclusion that entrapment took place results in a not guilty verdict.vii In a state that employs a subjective test of entrapment, a conclusion that entrapment took place results in the burden of proof shifting back to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty because the defendant’s predisposition to commit the crime — not the government agent’s actions — prompted the defendant to commit the crime.viii

The Legal Test for Entrapment in Arizona

Coupled with the facts of the individual case, the court will use one of two tests when they are deciding whether or not a particular case is entrapment.ix These two tests are the objective test and the subjective test.x The objective test focuses on the question: whether the police conduct in inducing the criminal act would have caused a reasonable person in the same circumstances to commit the crime, regardless of the specific mental state of the defendant.xi Because this type of inducement might cause anyone to commit the crime, the application of objective test would very likely result in a finding of entrapment in Arizona, even if the defendant had a prior history of drug purchases for recreational reasons.xii

The subjective test examines both the nature of the enticement and the defendant’s state of mind.xiii The subjective test focuses more on the defendant’s action than just the law enforcements actions.xivThe majority of states and the federal courts apply a test that examines both the nature of the enticement and the defendant’s state of mind.xv When asserting this defense, defendants must show that they were induced to commit the crime and may have to weather the prosecutor’s attempts to show that they were predisposed to commit the crime.xvi

The Subjective Test – Inducement

Inducing someone to commit a crime will involve more than simply asking that person to commit it.xvii Law enforcement can lie about certain facts, by using false names, businesses, or even associates.xviii In order to be successful, defendants must usually show at least some persuasion or mild coercion.xix For example, an undercover agent might ask someone to commit a crime based on friendship, hardship, or a play for sympathy. If a judge or jury concludes that a defendant was pressured to commit a crime, they will likely find that the defendant has been induced.xx To establish inducement, a defendant will need to show that it is more likely than not that he has been induced by law enforcement to commit a crime.xxi

The Subjective Test – Predisposition

Defendants who have presented evidence that they were induced may not be home free just yet. While there must be inducement under the subjective test, the question of predisposition is usually the more important factor.xxii Once inducement has been raised by the defense, the prosecutor has the burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime.xxiiiIn other words, the government must demonstrate that the defendant was ready, willing and able—that his will to follow the law was not overcome by the inducement. For example, if the prosecutor can show that the defendant himself had previously proposed similar criminal acts to other people, the defense of entrapment will be extremely difficult to establish. But on the other hand, if the defendant has never engaged in (or even discussed) the proposed criminal act, the prosecutor may fail to establish predisposition. Essentially, when there is inducement and a lack of predisposition, the defendant has established the entrapment defense.

Conclusion to Entrapment in Arizona

While entrapment in the movies seems to be pretty easy to prove, it takes a lot more than just claiming entrapment in the real world for the defense to prevail in court. There is both an objective standard and a subjective standard that courts can apply in order to determine if entrapment took place. There is also the factor that only government officials can entrap an individual for the purposes of the entrapment defense. While it is difficult to prove entrapment in Arizona, it is not impossible. Contact our experienced lawyers to find out more about entrapment in Arizona.


i See What is Entrapment NOLO Legal Encyclopedia (Accessed June 14, 2017) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/entrapment-basics-33987.html

ii Id.

iii See What is Entrapment NOLO Legal Encyclopedia (Accessed June 14, 2017) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/entrapment-basics-33987.html

iv Id.

v See Affirmative Defense Legal Information Institute Cornell Law School (Accessed June 29, 2017) https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/affirmative_defense

vi See What is Entrapment NOLO Legal Encyclopedia (Accessed June 14, 2017) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/entrapment-basics-33987.html

vii Id.

viii Id.

ix See Entrapment: How Far is Too Far for the Police? Lawyers.com (Accessed June 14, 2017) http://criminal.lawyers.com/criminal-law-basics/entrapment-how-far-is-too-far-for-the-police.html

x Id.

xi Id.

xii Id.

xiii Id.

xiv See Entrapment: How Far is Too Far for the Police? Lawyers.com (Accessed June 14, 2017) http://criminal.lawyers.com/criminal-law-basics/entrapment-how-far-is-too-far-for-the-police.html

xv Id.

xvi Id.

xvii Id.

xviii Id.

xix Id.

xx See Entrapment: How Far is Too Far for the Police? Lawyers.com (Accessed June 14, 2017) http://criminal.lawyers.com/criminal-law-basics/entrapment-how-far-is-too-far-for-the-police.html

xxi Id.

xxii Id.

xxiii Id.