With the recent arrest by the FBI of terror suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud the nation has been abuzz with talks of “entrapment”. Did the FBI push the Somali born man to take terrorist action or were they simply doing their job?
Interestingly, claims of entrapment aren’t just for high profile cases like this. Nearly anytime the police set up a “sting” operation, they must be cautious that their actions can’t be perceived as entrapment. It’s true in prostitution stings and drug stings alike—there is a fine line between uncovering a suspect’s true intent and leading them into criminal behavior.
The FBI claims Mr. Mohamud’s intent was to detonate a car bomb at a crowded Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in downtown Portland. Critics state the 19 year old man would have had no such ideas if the undercover FBI agents hadn’t planted the seed in his head.
According to various media sources, the FBI helped the suspect find the materials needed for the bomb and even told him how to set the bomb off. Does this amount to entrapment?
Legally, entrapment is defined as being persuaded or induced by law enforcement to commit a crime when the original intention wasn’t there. In other words, it’s being “talked into” committing a crime that you would otherwise not commit. The law goes on to say that entrapment is not when someone is willing to break the law and the government agents simply give them the opportunity to commit it.
Attorney General Eric Holder states he is confident there was no entrapment in the FBI’s investigation of the Portland terror suspect and the Mayor of Portland is thankful for their investigation and subsequent arrest.
Entrapment is a term that’s thrown around a lot though rarely legally applicable. In some instances, however, sting operations can entrap people who would otherwise not ever commit such crimes. Many who get caught up in such prostitution or drug stings often claim they were “tricked” into committing an offense.
In order for you to convince a judge or jury that you are the victim of entrapment, a consultation with a defense attorney is necessary. It can be difficult to prove entrapment, though an honest consultation will help determine if it’s possible with your particular case.