Many misunderstandings and misconceptions surround the police. Society tends to view the police as righteous peacekeepers held to a higher standard than everyone else. Less desirable qualities, like dishonesty, are often seen as having no place in a police force. However, dishonesty and deception are frequent tactics employed by police officers in criminal investigations. Police do not always have to tell the truth to the people they are investigating, making any interaction with the police precarious. However, when these deceptive practices go too far, you may be a victim of police entrapment.
Entrapment is more than merely lying. Entrapment occurs when the police induce a person to commit a crime they otherwise would not have committed. Entrapment can be accomplished in many different ways, and every entrapment case is unique. If you believe you are the victim of entrapment, you may use that as a defense against your charges. However, you will need to prove that the entrapment occurred, which may be difficult. You will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Call an attorney immediately if you have been charged with a criminal offense but believe the offense resulted from entrapment. Our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers have the skills and experience to challenge the charges against you in the face of police misconduct. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to speak with our team about your case. We are available for free legal consultations.
What Is Entrapment In New Jersey?
Sometimes police officers have to work undercover to get to the bottom of a criminal investigation. However, there are some situations where an officer’s behavior crosses the line into entrapment. While an undercover police officer does not need to be open and honest with a suspect about everything, they cannot induce the suspect into criminal activity. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:2-12, entrapment occurs when law enforcement, often by undercover means, induces or deceives a suspect into committing a crime that the suspect would otherwise have not committed.
Depending on what happened between the defendant and the officer, it might be possible to successfully raise entrapment as a defense against various criminal charges. In this article, our Cape May criminal defense lawyers explain the concept of entrapment and when it can be used as a legal defense in New Jersey. It should be noted that entrapment does not occur as often as people think it does. The authorities are permitted to use deception in their police work to a certain extent, and entrapment is a somewhat rare occurrence. If you think you might have a case of entrapment, talk to our New Jersey police entrapment defense lawyers.
Is It Police Entrapment to Lie to a Suspect in New Jersey?
Entrapment occurs when a police officer induces a person to commit a crime the person otherwise would not have committed. This element of induction is an absolutely critical component of entrapment, a legal concept that is widely misunderstood. It is not enough that the police lied about their true intentions. Their deception must have caused you to commit a crime you did not want to commit or had not otherwise planned to commit.
Contrary to popular belief, police officers have not necessarily engaged in entrapment simply because they lied to a criminal suspect. If this were the case, it would become completely impossible to perform undercover operations effectively. Resorting to dishonesty is a legally acceptable tactic when members of law enforcement are using a false identity. It is a common misconception that if you ask an undercover police officer if they are a police officer, they have to say yes. They will undoubtedly lie and say no.
How Does Entrapment Happen in New Jersey?
Entrapment can take many different forms. It is not always easy to tell if you have been entrapped after being arrested. However, there are some common methods of entrapment as well as some common misconceptions.
Let’s start with what entrapment is not. Entrapment is not inherent to all undercover work. When a police officer goes undercover as a drug buyer to bust a drug dealer or even a ring of dealers, those dealers are not being entrapped. They are already engaging in criminal activity, and the undercover officer is not inducing them into selling drugs by posing as a potential buyer. The police go undercover all the time as part of criminal investigations, and entrapment is usually not involved.
However, entrapment may be accomplished when the police encourage a person to sell drugs they do not want to sell in order to arrest that person for dealing. For example, suppose you have some leftover narcotic painkillers from a back injury that you plan on throwing away. Now also suppose that an undercover police officer comes to talk to you about the pills, suggests you sell them, and then pressures you into selling them the pills. If the officer comes up with the idea to sell the pills, persuades you to do so, and then arrests you for doing it, you might be the victim of entrapment. Typically, you would have to prove that you would not have sold the pills had the officer not persuaded you to do so.
Entrapment could also be completed if an officer lies to a suspect about the legality of an offense. For example, in the same situation as just mentioned, suppose the officer tells you it is perfectly legal to sell medications that have been prescribed to you because prescription drugs are legal. This is false, and selling drugs of any kind is usually a crime. You might be a victim of entrapment in this scenario. Proving you were entrapped can be difficult, as the word of police officers is usually well respected and hard to challenge. Our South Jersey criminal defense lawyers will fight for you.
Can Police Entrapment Occur During Interrogations in New Jersey?
Strategic dishonesty also plays a role in the interrogation of criminal suspects. It is legal for a police officer to make misleading or even outright false statements during an interrogation, as long as the suspect is read their Miranda rights before the interrogation begins. For example, the interrogating officer might state or imply that they already have incriminating evidence they do not actually possess, which may not even exist. In other cases, an officer might tell a suspect that another suspect has already implicated them in the crime, even though they have not spoken to the other suspect yet.
Entrapment does not occur during the interrogation process because any criminal wrongdoing would have already been committed. Any deception used by the police during interrogation could not influence a suspect to commit a crime because they are in police custody and unable to commit any crime, even if they wanted to. If the police’s deceptive tactics induce you to make a confession or otherwise incriminate yourself or someone else, that is not entrapment.
Contact our Stone Harbor criminal defense attorneys immediately if you were recently arrested and interrogated regarding an alleged offense. While entrapment is unlikely to come up during police interrogation, the police must not violate your rights during an interrogation. Any violations could be used to challenge the charges against you.
Limits of Police Deception and Entrapment in Criminal Investigations in New Jersey
With that being said, there are still some instances where an officer’s dishonesty exceeds what’s considered acceptable from a legal standpoint. In New Jersey, an officer commits entrapment when they encourage or induce someone into committing a criminal offense so the officer can gather the evidence of the crime and arrest the defendant. In other words, an officer goads another person into committing a crime for the express purpose of gaining evidence that a crime was committed. For the act to be considered entrapment, the officer must also do one of the following:
Make Knowingly False Representations
If an officer knowingly makes false representations — that is, lie — to convince the person that the offense they are committing is not actually a crime, this may be considered entrapment. For instance, an officer ensures someone that an illegal drug or weapon is actually legal, resulting in drug charges or weapons crime charges.
Methods of Persuasion
Entrapment may arise when an officer uses methods of persuasion to increase the likelihood that someone who would not ordinarily engage in criminal acts, engages in criminal acts. For instance, an officer persuading someone with a clean criminal record to commit a theft crime.
Essentially, the police are permitted to use deception and dishonesty in the course of a criminal investigation. However, the police are not permitted to encourage or induce criminal activity simply so they can arrest someone for a crime. Call our New Jersey police entrapment defense attorneys for more information.
When Is Entrapment a Defense to Criminal Charges in New Jersey?
N.J.S.A. § 2C:2-12(b) is of tremendous importance to defendants and their loved ones. This portion of the statute provides that, with one exception we’ll address momentarily, any defendant must be acquitted if they prove by a preponderance of the evidence that their conduct occurred in response to an entrapment. While this is powerful news for defendants who were victims of entrapment, it’s important to emphasize the evidentiary requirement.
A “preponderance of the evidence” is not just a fancy term for “a lot” — it has a specific legal meaning. The defendant must be able to prove that the entrapment was more likely to have occurred than not, meaning the chance that entrapment occurred is greater than 50%. This standard of proof, while relatively rigorous, falls short of proving that something occurred “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the standard applicable to prosecutors.
When Entrapment Is Not a Defense to Criminal Charges in New Jersey
As we noted a moment ago, there is one exception where entrapment is not a valid legal defense. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:2-12(c), the entrapment defense will not work if the defendant is being prosecuted for injuring (or threatening to injure) somebody other than the officer. Depending on how serious the injury is, the defendant could also face enhanced penalties. For instance, causing bodily injury will result in simple assault charges, while causing serious bodily injury will result in aggravated assault charges.
Entrapment is a very complicated legal concept, and it is not always clear if entrapment is present or not. If you believe you were induced into committing a crime, contact our New Jersey entrapment defense attorneys for help.
Contact Our Police Entrapment Defense Attorneys
If you think you were a victim of entrapment or other police misconduct, the officer’s actions should be investigated. The Atlantic City defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych are ready to fight the charges against you. To arrange a free, confidential legal consultation, call us right away at (609) 616-4956.