The Difference Between a Sting and Entrapment

Posted on in Criminal Defense

entrapment, sting, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneySting operations are commonly used by law enforcement organizations to apprehend would-be lawbreakers in a controlled environment. While they are most often associated with anti-prostitution efforts and drug-related crimes, stings can be used in almost any area of criminal law. In fact, a recent sting arranged by the Los Angeles Police Department led to the arrest of a several ride-sharing drivers who, police officials claim, picked up passengers illegally. To an outside observer, a sting operation may seem very much like an entrapment technique, which, by law, would illegal on the part of law enforcement. While there are important differences between the two, the line can be fairly obscured at times.

What is a Sting?

By all accounts, a sting is an admittedly deceptive practice used to catch those involved in criminal activity. In a sting operation, a police officer—usually undercover—or a recruited civilian is typically employed to facilitate the suspect’s attempts to commit an illegal act. This often includes a law enforcement agent posing as a prostitute, drug buyer, or one of many other potential roles.  When the suspect attempts to commit the illegal act, he or she is usually arrested and charged.

Understanding Entrapment

In a very real way, a well-orchestrated sting operation is perilously close to entrapment. Entrapment, by its definition, refers to a situation in which the suspect was not only lured into committing an illegal act by a law enforcement officer—again, usually undercover—but would have otherwise never committed such an act if it had not been for the participation of the officer. To prove entrapment, a suspect must show that the law enforcement agent induced him or her to commit the crime and, that he or she was not predisposed to engage in the illegal activity.

Practical Challenges

If you were caught up in a sting operation, it may be very difficult for you to claim entrapment. For example, by approaching an apparent prostitute and engaging in negotiations over a price, you would be unlikely to convince a court that you were not predisposed to the act. However, if you were coerced or induced by law enforcement to the extent that a normal, innocent person’s “will to obey the law could have been overborne,” you may have been entrapped.

Criminal charges of any kind are a serious matter and can have a severe impact on your life. If you have been the victim of entrapment, however, you deserve justice. Contact an experienced Chicago criminal defense lawyer today for a free initial consultation. As former prosecutor, Attorney Hal Garfinkel understands the complexities of sting operations, and, when law enforcement officers go too far, he is ready to hold them accountable. Call 312-629-0669 to schedule an appointment and get the skilled representation you need.


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