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When the law enforcements manufacture a crime to trap a person not otherwise predisposed to commit the offense, the case involves an entrapment defense. The entrapment defense assumes you are actually guilty of the underlying criminal offense, but then requires a determination of whether the State has proved by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant was not entrapped.

“Entrapment” occurs when a law enforcement agent causes the commission of a crime by using persuasion or other means likely to cause a normally law-abiding person to commit the crime.  Conduct merely providing an opportunity to commit a crime does not amount to entrapment.

The entrapment defense considers the conduct of the (law enforcement officer, sheriff, agent, policeman, etc.) and the defendant.  This conduct includes dealings leading up to the crime, the interaction between the agent and the defendant, and the defendant’s response to the conduct of the agent.

These interactions are considered in deciding what the effect of the agent’s conduct would be on a normally law-abiding person. If the State has not disproved the defense of entrapment, the defendant is not guilty.

Entrapment defenses are most common in the following types of criminal offenses:

  • drug crimes related to possession, sale, or trafficking;
  • prostitution and solicitation crimes;
  • white collar crimes; and
  • financial crimes.

What is an Entrapment Defense in Iowa?

“Entrapment may occur ‘when a law enforcement agent induces the commission of the offense, using persuasion or other means likely to cause law-abiding persons to commit it.’“ State v. Babers, 514 N.W.2d 79, 83 (Iowa 1994) (citation omitted).

Law enforcement is prohibited from making “extreme pleas of desperate illness, appeals based primarily on sympathy, pity, or close personal friendship, and offers of inordinate sums of money.” Id. 

To rise to the level of prohibited activity, the officer’s conduct must involve excessive incitement, urging, persuasion, or temptation.’ “ Jim O. Inc. v. City of Cedar Rapids, 587 N.W.2d 476, 479 (Iowa 1998) (citations omitted).

But “merely providing the opportunity or the facilities for the commission of a crime does not constitute entrapment.” Id. “[E]ntrapment must involve the use of excessive incitement, urging, persuasion, or temptation by law enforcement agents.” Id.

An objective test is used for the defense of entrapment, and the defendant bears the burden to generate a fact issue on the question of entrapment. Id.

Sufficient Evidence of Entrapment to Generate a Jury Question

A defendant has the burden to generate a fact question on the issue of entrapment. State v. Cooper, 248 N.W.2d 908, 910 (Iowa 1976). In considering whether there is sufficient evidence of entrapment to generate a jury question, the court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the defendant. Id.

“Once evidence of entrapment is introduced the State has the burden of persuading the trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt entrapment did not occur.” State v. Levsen, 261 N.W.2d 471, 473 (Iowa 1978).

The courts use an objective test to determine if there has been entrapment. State v. Gallup, 500 N.W.2d 437, 440 (Iowa 1993). In most cases, the issue of whether the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was entrapped is for the jury to decide. Levsen, 261 N.W.2d at 475.

The jury’s verdict will be upheld if there was sufficient evidence for a rational factfinder to find an absence of entrapment beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Williams, 315 N.W.2d 45, 54 (Iowa 1982).

Entrapment as a Matter of Law in Iowa

In order for the court to find that as a matter of law, entrapment occurred, the court would have to find that the government’s activities were “sufficiently provocative” to induce the defendant to commit the charged offenses. One common example of entrapment as a matter of law occurs during a drug bust involving controlled buys that constituted “take-back entrapment.”

For example, in State v. Overmann, 220 N.W.2d 914, 917 (Iowa 1974), the court explained that “take-back entrapment” is shown “if an accused produces evidence disclosing:

  1. the government, through an agent or informer, supplied drugs to defendant, and
  2. the government, through an agent or informer, later reappropriates any of those drugs from the accused.”

If the State fails to come forth with evidence which contradicts either of the above two elements, “then an accused is entitled to a dismissal as a matter of law”. State v. Brown, 810 N.W.2d 533 (Iowa Ct. App. 2012).

“Private Entrapment” Theory of Defense

“[E]ntrapment occurs when a law enforcement agent induces the commission of the offense, using persuasion or other means likely to cause normally law-abiding persons to commit it.” State v. Tomlinson, 243 N.W.2d 551, 553 (Iowa 1976). “Conduct merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense is not entrapment.” Id.

Under the objective test for entrapment adopted by our supreme court in State v. Mullen, 216 N.W.2d 375, 382 (Iowa 1974), the focus is not on the propensities or predisposition of the defendant, but on the actions of law enforcement. State v. Leonard, 243 N.W.2d 75, 80 (Iowa 1976).

“[I]f a private individual puts another person up to the commission of a crime, that other person cannot successfully urge entrapment even though the private individual informs law officers that the crime is going to be committed.” State v. Ostrand, 219 N.W.2d 509, 512 (Iowa 1974). But “[i]f law enforcement officers use an individual to help them arrange the commission of a crime by another person, the officers cannot disclaim the inducements such individual offers in the course of his efforts on behalf of the officers.” Tomlinson, 243 N.W.2d at 554.

The private entrapment theory requires that the defendant both:

  1. tie the private individuals to the police to show they were acting for law enforcement, and
  2. show the inducements employed by the individuals that would cause a normally law-abiding person to commit the offense.

State v. Gibb, 303 N.W.2d 673, 683 (Iowa 1981).

Attorney for the Entrapment Defense in Polk County, Iowa

If you were charged with a crime and believe that you were entrapped, then contact an attorney experienced in fighting cases in which a law enforcement officer improperly manufactures the crime. The criminal defense attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. represent clients throughout Des Moines, Polk County, and the entire State of Iowa.

Call us to discuss your case today at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C..