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What is “catfishing,” and how does it relate to aiding and abetting, entrapment? P.2

Previously, we began looking at a criminal case in Florida involving catfishing, a term sometimes used to refer to the fraudulent seduction of another online by using a fake profile. As we noted, the alleged catfishing in the case was not taken at all into account for purposes of conviction and sentencing, but it is does raise the specter of entrapment.

Entrapment is a defense that can sometimes come up in criminal cases involving undercover or sting operations. Entrapment can be a complete defense to a criminal charge, if a defendant is able to provide sufficient evidence for each element of entrapment. It is available in criminal cases where a defendant was essentially set up to commit a crime.

Generally speaking, there are two recognized elements to the defense of entrapment: the government induced the defendant to commit the crime; and the defendant had no predisposition to commit the crime. Inducement requires more than showing that a government agent solicited the commission of a crime. It must be shown, at least, that the government used persuasion or a degree of coercion to induce the commission of the crime. It doesn’t matter whether a government actor uses deceit or pretense. If the defendant was ready to commit the crime, entrapment is not available as a defense.

Predisposition is another important requirement. It is distinct from the intent to commit the crime, and it isn’t necessary for the defendant to have a criminal record to show predisposition. In some cases, the ready willingness to commit a crime may be enough to establish predisposition.

Catfishing, as we’ve discussed it in recent posts, could in some cases raise questions about possible entrapment, though law enforcement agents typically know what they are and are not allowed to do within the limits of the law. Although the defense of entrapment is only rarely available to defendants, it is nevertheless important for defendants charged in connection with cases investigated undercover or by sting to work with an experienced attorney to thoroughly review the methods law enforcement used to obtain the arrest. A thorough review of this evidence is necessary to determine the applicability of a variety of potential defenses. 

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