Entrapment is a word that is often misused and misunderstood. In Florida criminal law, entrapment is a defense to a crime, such as sale of drugs or drug trafficking, that can be used in limited circumstances. For instance, in a recent criminal case out of Florida, a defendant was charged with the crime of sale of marijuana (aka sale of cannabis). The defendant was not known to be a seller of marijuana but did use marijuana from time to time. The local police decided to use a friend of the defendant’s to encourage the defendant to sell marijuana to him. The “friend”, or confidential informant, was facing criminal drug charges himself and agreed to help the police in exchange for having his charges dropped. The friend contacted the defendant and asked the defendant if he could sell drugs to the friend. The defendant said he did not have any drugs and refused. The friend proceeded to call the defendant 18 times requesting to buy marijuana from him. Some of these calls were made late at night and some were to his work. Finally, the defendant agreed to buy marijuana from a dealer and split it with the friend. None of the initial contacts and communications were monitored by the police, just the ultimate exchange of the marijuana.
The defendant was then charged with sale of marijuana and later filed a motion to dismiss the charges claiming he was entrapped into selling the drugs. Entrapment is a defense that is not successful often, but it was applicable in this case. Generally, the defense of entrapment applies when a defendant is induced to commit a crime that he/she would not normally commit. If the defense is successfully presented, the charges are dismissed. In this case, the court focused on the conduct of law enforcement and the friend and found that the defendant was improperly entrapped into committing the drug sale. Some of the relevant factors in favor of the defense included: the police had no reason to believe the defendant was selling drugs before this incident, the “friend” had a lot of incentive to make the defendant agree to sell him drugs including payments per drug deal and the dismissal of his criminal charges and the police never supervised the interactions between the friend and the defendant.
While the defense of entrapment is not often successful, where the police find someone who is not predisposed to commit a crime and use excessive means to get the person to commit the crime, entrapment can be successfully asserted as a defense to have criminal charges dismissed.