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Trick or ... Jail: the Undercover Sting

With all that is happening lately in Houston and around the world - frequent crises with both natural and human causes - it would seem that there is more than enough work for law enforcement. But, in addition to responding to events, police spend a great deal of time and taxpayer money to create opportunities for people to commit crime. In this post, I discuss generally these kind of "sting" investigations and possible defenses that may exist.

Police officers use sting operations in a wide variety of situations, such as buying and selling drugs, buying or selling stolen property, bank fraud, sex crimes - prostitution and online offenses, public corruption, and even national security matters, to name a few. The law allows police to provide a person an opportunity to commit a crime. Often, when a police officer is party to an illegal transaction or multiple transactions, no arrest is immediately made. This is sometimes explained by police's desire to further their investigation or protect an informant. At some later date, police may rely on those transactions to support a search warrant or criminal charges, or both. Other times, police may execute an arrest immediately after the transaction occurs; and in some cases, before the transaction, when the agreement to conduct the act occurs.

But there is a limit to police conduct. In Texas, entrapment is a defense to criminal charges. The entrapment defense requires a defendant to show that she engaged in the conduct charged because she was induced to do so by a law enforcement agent using persuasion or other means likely to cause persons to commit the offense. If a defendant presents some evidence to support this defense, the prosecution has to then disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Notably, to prove entrapment the defendant must admit that she actually did engage in the transaction in question, but was induced to so by persuasion or other means. Judges have interpreted "persuasion" as that which would cause an average, law-abiding person of average resistance to commit the crime.

Entrapment is just one possible defense; there are others. Anyone who has been the target of an undercover investigation needs experienced representation to review how that investigation was conducted. If you or a loved one have been arrested, approached by an undercover agent or officer, or have related legal questions, call Lewis Thomas at 281-513-9880 for a free initial consultation.

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