There's a common myth that police can't lie about their identities, or they're guilty of entrapment. This myth persists despite the fact that it would clearly make undercover work impossible. If police could never lie, the groups they were trying to infiltrate would just have to question all new members and they'd catch every last officer. The reality is that police can lie and that's not entrapment -- at least, not on its own.

The Elements of Entrapment

There are actually two major elements to entrapment. The first is that the authorities get you to do something that is illegal, tricking you into breaking the law simply to arrest you. The second is that you would not have committed that crime otherwise, that you weren't predisposed to such action.

You can see why people get confused about entrapment. If the police lie to you and trick you, it sounds like that's entrapment, but it's not. It's only illegal if they get you to commit the crime and you wouldn't have done so without them.

Examples

For example, if you're looking to sell illegal drugs and the police suspect you, an undercover agent can approach you, buy the drugs, and then arrest you. Yes, you were tricked, but you were going to sell them anyway. The police just used the opportunity.

However, if you're not interested in selling drugs at all, but then an officer approaches you with them and asks you to sell them to a third party -- another officer, though you don't know it -- that's entrapment. You wouldn't have broken the law until the two officers approached you and convinced you to do it.

The Entrapment Defense

Entrapment is illegal because the police are supposed to find and arrest criminals, not create criminals for the sake of boosting arrest statistics. If you think they did this to you, it's important to know exactly what entrapment is and how it can be used as a defense against criminal charges.