Entrapment by law enforcement is a possible legal defense to various crimes that might be charged in South Carolina. For example, in an earlier article, we discussed entrapment as a possible defense to a charge of embezzlement. See here. Here is what you should know about entrapment in South Carolina.
What Is Entrapment in South Carolina?
In general, entrapment is an argument made to a criminal jury that the defendant is not guilty because he or she was enticed or entrapped by law enforcement. The argument is that, but for the entrapment, the defendant would not have committed the crime. Entrapment is what is called an “affirmative defense.” This means that the defendant has the burden submitting enough evidence to the jury to convince them that the defendant was enticed or entrapped.
More specifically, under South Carolina case law, entrapment is defined to exist where “… the conception and planning of an offense by an officer, and [the officer’s] procurement of its commission by one who would not have perpetrated it except for trickery, persuasion, or fraud of the officer.” State v. Brown, 607 S.E.2d 93 (S. Car. App. 2004). Thus, there are two elements that must be shown by the defendant:
- Government inducement; and
- Lack of predisposition to commit the crime by the defendant
From this it is clear that entrapment will not be a defense if the defendant is already predisposed to commit the crime in question. See case discussion below. Further, the defense of entrapment will not work merely because law enforcement provides an opportunity or facilities for the commission of the crime.
Greenville, SC Criminal Defense — Case Example: State v. Gaines
State v. Gaines, 667 SE 2d 728 (S. Car. Supreme Court 2008) provides a good example. In that case, the defendant was convicted of three counts of criminal sexual solicitation of a minor.
The facts are these: Defendant Gaines had a computer username of HMMRTHEGRT8. Using that screenname, and he frequented online chat rooms. For six months in 2004, he communicated with what he believed was a 12-year-old girl in Philadelphia, PA. In reality, the “girl” — using the screen name “LilAshleyPA” — was an undercover police officer. Gaines repeatedly made detailed sexual references as to how he wanted to spend time with LilAshleyPA if she were to come to South Carolina. He proposed to rent hotel room, offered to buy her clothing, asked that she send him nude photos of herself and told her to keep their plans a secret because “guys my age aren’t allowed to date girls your age.”
Learning that Gaines lived in South Carolina, the Pennsylvania undercover agents referred the case to South Carolina authorities. In October 2004, South Carolina police officers set up an AOL internet account using the screen name “Allyinsc13.” In October 2004, Allyinsc13 contacted HMMRTHEGRT8 online by saying “hey.” Gaines responded and Allyinsc13 eventually told Gaines she was a thirteen-year-old living in Columbia. Gaines told “her” that he was 28-years-old and began discussing and arranging a sexual encounter. As with LilAshleyPA, Gaines proposed to rent hotel room for Allyinsc13, offered to by her clothing, asked that she send nude photos of herself and told her to keep their plans a secret.
Gaines was eventually arrested and convicted on three counts of criminal solicitation of a minor in violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 16-15-342. At trial and on appeal, Gaines argued that he had been entrapped by South Carolina law enforcement. The South Carolina Supreme Court rejected the defense. Given Gaines’ behavior and online communications with LilAshleyPA, Gaines was patently predisposed to commit the crime. Even though the South Carolina law enforcement initiated the first online contact, such was not entrapment because of Gaines’ predisposition. As the court stated:
“The initial contact merely afforded Gaines the opportunity to solicit sex. Gaines was in no way induced to commit the crime of criminal solicitation of a minor.”
Call The Greenville Law Office Of H. Chase Harbin Today
For more information, contact the proven criminal defense attorneys at The Law Office of H. Chase Harbin. Contact our office today via email or by telephone. We have offices in Greenville and Pickens, South Carolina.
Chase Harbin is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who practices in Pickens and Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 17 years now. Chase Harbin believes in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.