Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

Expanding on the Defense of Entrapment in Georgia

Posted by Richard Lawson | Jan 29, 2018 | 0 Comments

Entrapment in Georgia is not only frequently misunderstood but also misconstrued. The most common misconception about entrapment usually involves driving laws. For example, if an officer is hidden from sight, utilizes a radar gun, and catches someone speeding. This is not entrapment. Entrapment has nothing to do with whether an officer is visible or not. Another example is if someone asks an undercover officer if he or she is law enforcement, and the officer doesn't respond in the affirmative. Again, you guessed it - this is not entrapment.

The Georgia Code defines entrapment as: “A person is not guilty of a crime if, by entrapment, his conduct is induced or solicited by a government officer or employee, or agent of either, for the purpose of obtaining evidence to be used in prosecuting the person for the commission of the crime.” Put simply; entrapment happens when an officer or any other legal authority encourages someone to commit an offense and arrests that person.

If someone is accused of a crime, but it is demonstrated that the accused person was engaged in entrapment, then they will be found not guilty. The theory behind the defense of entrapment is to prevent the occurrence of law enforcement officers enticing innocent people to commit a crime. There are three elements of entrapment in the state of Georgia. First, the idea for the crime must originate and root back to the state agent. Second, the crime must be induced by the state agent's persuasion, incitement, or deceit. And third, the defendant must not be predisposed to committing the crime. The last element is the critical element - the predisposition or the mind of the defendant.

When utilizing the defense of entrapment, the accused person will have to admit to the crime. In other words, there is absolutely no way to use entrapment as a defense without admitting that a crime was committed because entrapment justifies the accused person's commission of the crime. The point is that entrapment is an “affirmative defense.” As with any affirmative defense, the accused did in fact commit that act that was a violation of the law. However the accused lacks criminal intent. The government, has in effect, caused someone to break a law they would not have, but for the encouragement of the police.

An Example of Entrapment Case in Georgia

Keaton v. State, 253 Ga. 70 (1984)

This case was brought before the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1984. The accused person was Thomas Keaton Jr. who was indicted for selling marijuana in violation of §16-13-30. He had been tried before a jury, convicted, and sentenced to twelve years in prison. The following are the crucial facts of the case. On October 14, 1982, Keaton, who was then seventeen years old, was hanging out with some friends at a pool hall in Carrollton, GA. Shirley Dawson, an undercover GBI narcotics agent, approached Keaton and asked if he had any marijuana. Keaton replied that he didn't, but that he would check with his friends to see if they could get her some. Later that night, Keaton came up to Dawson and told her who she could buy the marijuana from. That's when Dawson asked Keaton to be the middleman. They engaged in another transaction later that week with a second seller. Keaton admitted to being involved as the middleman in the purchases on both occasions. He said that on each occasion, he had only agreed after many, persistent requests from her.

It was in the trial court where things got tricky. The trial court instructed the jury as follows: "[I]t is no entrapment to commit a crime where the officers merely furnish an opportunity to a criminal who is ready and willing to commit an offense. If an officer of the law had reason to believe that the law is being violated he or she may proceed to ascertain whether those who are thought to be doing so are actually committing a criminal offense. If an officer acts in good faith in the honest belief that the defendant is engaged in unlawful conduct of which the offense charged is a part, and the purpose of the officer is not to induce an innocent man to commit a crime, but to secure evidence upon which a guilty man can be brought to justice, the defense of entrapment is without merit."

Keaton's lawyers argued that the instruction incorrectly caused the jury to focus on the mind of the police offer, therefore creating a “good faith” exception to his entrapment defense. The Supreme Court of Georgia accepted this argument and focused on the three elements that we discussed in the above portion of this blog.

1. The idea for the commission of the crime must originate with the state agent

2. The crime must be induced by the agent's undue persuasion

3. The defendant must not be predisposed to commit the crime

As mentioned earlier, the key element of the defense of entrapment is the predisposition or the mind of the defendant - not the police officer.

The Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the original judgment of the trial court.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime and believe that the entrapment defense applies to your case, then you need a top-rated Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney. Here at Lawson and Berry, we have over 50 years of combined experience and are able to provide you with the best possible defenses for your specific case. Contact us today.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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