Are you facing serious charges for a drug-related criminal offense in the State of Tennessee? If so, you undoubtedly already know that avoiding a conviction is crucial. That means you need a good defense strategy. Was it entrapment? If the facts of your case truly support a defense of entrapment, that may be your ticket to preventing a conviction. The problem is, however, that the average person does not really understand what the legal defense of entrapment requires. Only an experienced Tennessee drug crime attorney can review the unique facts and circumstances of your case and provide you with an opinion as to whether you have a valid entrapment defense. In the meantime, however, it may help to learn more about how the defense actually works.
Entrapment — Myths and Misconceptions
Entrapment is one of those defenses that people love to claim applies in their case despite the fact that the average person doesn’t really understand the defense. Prostitution and drug crimes are particularly susceptible to claims of entrapment. Whenever an undercover officer is involved, defendants often shout “entrapment” based solely on the fact that the undercover officer approached them or solicited their involvement in the crime. Entrapment isn’t that simple. If it were, half of the criminal prosecutions would fail. To understand the defense of entrapment, we must first look to the statute where the defense is found. The State of Tennessee did not recognize entrapment as a valid defense until the 1980s. Now, Tennessee Code Section 39-11-505 governs the entrapment defense, reading as follows:
It is a defense to prosecution that law enforcement officials, acting either directly or through an agent, induced or persuaded an otherwise unwilling person to commit an unlawful act when the person was not predisposed to do so. If a defendant intends to rely on the defense of entrapment, the defendant shall give to the district attorney general a notice comparable to that required for an insanity defense under Rule 12.2 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure.
What Is Required for an Entrapment Defense to Work?
For a defense of entrapment to be successful, you must convince the judge or jury of a couple of things. First, you must show that law enforcement officials induced or persuaded you to engage in the unlawful conduct at issue in your case. Second, you must show that you were an otherwise unwilling participant and that you were not predisposed to commit the crime in question.
A standard Tennessee jury instruction on the entrapment defense helps to understand what a defendant must prove when claiming entrapment. With regard to the first element required, the standard jury instruction reads as follows:
“Inducement by law enforcement officials may take many forms including persuasion, fraudulent representations, threats, coercive tactics, harassment, promises of reward, or pleas based on need, sympathy or friendship. A solicitation, request or approach by law enforcement officials to engage in criminal activity, standing alone is not an inducement.”
Again, the unique facts of any case will determine if the defense applies; however, it is clear that an undercover officer simply asking you to find, or sell, him/her some drugs won’t suffice for the “inducement” element.
Often, the more difficult element of an entrapment defense is the second element. Even if you can prove that a law enforcement officer induced you to commit the crime, the defense won’t work unless you can also convince the judge or jury that you were not predisposed to commit the crime. Again, a standard jury instruction helps to understand what is required:
“In determining whether the defendant had a predisposition to commit the crimes charged, you need not find that [he] [she] was involved in any prior offenses or criminal conduct. Predisposition may be shown in many ways. The defendant’s predisposition or willingness to commit the crimes charged may be shown by evidence of [his] [her] prior conduct of a similar character or by evidence, direct or circumstantial, that [he] [she] was ready and willing to engage in the illegal conduct in question. It may be shown by evidence of the defendant’s reputation or character. In evaluating this matter of predisposition, you should look to the totality of the circumstances involved in the alleged offense(s) with which the defendant is charged.”
In short, you will need to convince the judge/jury that without the inducement by law enforcement, you would never have committed the crime. This is not an insurmountable obstacle; however, it does make successfully claiming the entrapment defense more difficult than most people think it is.
Contact a Murfreesboro Drug Crime Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about the entrapment defense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced drug crime attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.