What is the Entrapment Law in Utah?

“You have to tell me if you’re a cop, right?” Phrases like that and others are frequently used in popular portrayals of law enforcement, especially when they are undercover. The reality, however, is quite different. Deceptive tactics are frequently used by police officers to arrest criminals. Unfortunately, sometimes innocent people fall prey to these tactics and are pressured into committing crimes they otherwise would have steered clear of. A police officer compelling someone to do a crime in this way is called “entrapment.”

In Utah, entrapment is a defense against being charged with a crime. That being said, it can be tricky to know when a police officer’s conduct rises to the level of entrapment, as pressuring someone to commit a crime is allowed up to a certain point. You will also need to prove that entrapment occurred during your trial. Additionally, some crimes do not allow defendants to raise entrapment as a defense.

For a free, confidential analysis of your situation by our Murray, UT criminal defense attorneys, call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287.

What is Entrapment in Utah?

“Entrapment” refers to when law enforcement pressures someone into committing a crime. Specifically, under Utah Code § 76-2-303, entrapment occurs when a police officer “induces” someone to commit a crime they otherwise would not have carried out for the purpose of obtaining evidence for a criminal conviction. In other words, a cop suspects that someone is a criminal, so they try to get them to commit a crime so they have evidence to give to a prosecutor.

Not all police coercion to carry out a criminal act is entrapment, though. The statute requires that the pressure to do a criminal act must create a “substantial” risk of the crime actually being committed. For example, suppose an undercover cop enters a college party where alcohol is being served to minors. The police officer then asks a 20-year-old partygoer if they “want a drink,” and they say yes and start chugging. Here, although the police officer compelled the 20-year-old to commit the crime of drinking underage, that level of “pressure” to commit a crime would likely not rise to the level of entrapment because the pressure applied to make the crime happen was not very high and stemmed from the surroundings more than the police officer’s suggestion.

When Can Entrapment Occur in Utah?

Entrapment has to happen before a crime is committed. Undercover law enforcement officers are given a lot of latitude in how they can lie to and deceive people, as those tactics are deemed necessary for their job. So, an undercover cop might lie to you by denying that they are, in fact, a cop and then try to cajole you into admitting to a crime or committing one.

Once you are arrested, though, entrapment can no longer happen regarding that particular alleged crime. Many individuals incorrectly believe that a police officer cannot lie to you during interrogation or when you are being held in jail. Unfortunately, they legally can lie or tell half-truths during interrogations in order to get the information necessary for a criminal conviction. The main limit is that they must read you your Miranda rights and stop asking questions if you request a lawyer.  As such, none of this conduct in the interrogation room is the type of thing to lead to “entrapment,” even though it might constitute other types of unfair coercion.

When is Entrapment Not Available as a Defense in Utah?

There are some specific crimes that do not allow entrapment as a defense. Per Utah Code § 76-2-303(2), entrapment is not available as a defense when the alleged crime involves causing or threatening to cause serious bodily injury. If the defendant is being prosecuted for injuring someone, such as in a crime like murder, rape, or aggravated assault, they cannot use entrapment as a defense.

Entrapment is also not available as a defense if you were going to commit the crime anyway. Under Utah Code § 76-2-303(1), it is only entrapment if the police officer creates the risk that the defendant will commit a crime they were “otherwise not ready to commit.” For example, suppose an undercover cop asks if you want to buy drugs, and you immediately agree to purchase them and state that you are, “looking for your fix.” That would probably not be entrapment because you were disposed to committing the crime before the officer brought it up – they were merely the means.

You also have to make sure that the entrapment defense is raised on time. You must raise this defense no later than ten days before trial per Utah Code § 76-2-303(4). However, you may be able to get an extension from the court under appropriate circumstances. Of course, our attorneys will ensure that all motions on your behalf are filed in a timely fashion.

Effects of a Prior Criminal Record on Entrapment Claims in Utah

Individuals with a prior criminal history may be concerned that it will come up if they claim entrapment. However, under Utah Code § 76-2-303(6), prior criminal convictions cannot be mentioned to try to counter an entrapment defense.

This is consistent with other general rules in criminal proceedings. You are on trial for this alleged crime, not any other crimes you may have committed in the past.

The only time that prior criminal history can be brought up is if it is if you take the stand. For example, suppose the prosecution alleges that you bought illegal drugs from a cop, and you raise an entrapment defense. On the stand, you say that you “never” do drugs. The prosecutor can now bring up prior drug convictions to prove that you just lied on the stand under oath in court.

Discuss Your Claim with Our Utah Entrapment Defense Lawyers Today

Overson Law’s Orem criminal defense lawyers are standing by to help you with your case when you contact us at (801) 758-2287.