Sex Sting Operations and Entrapment in Texas
In Texas, law enforcement will sometimes engage in undercover sting operations in order to catch people in the act of soliciting prostitution. These sting operations may also be used to expose sex trafficking organizations or catch pimps.
These operations usually work by using an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute who attempts to find paying customers. The undercover officer may dress as a prostitute and agree to exchange sex for money. However, once the customer has agreed to make the payment, he or she can be arrested for soliciting prostitution.
The nature of these operations may cause may accused defendants to allege that the police used entrapment. Entrapment is an illegal scenario in which the police use persuasion or coercion to convince a law-abiding citizen to break the law. This is considered illegal when the citizen would not have engaged in the activity otherwise without being persuaded or coerced.
However, police are allowed to use certain tactics in sting operations that may not be considered entrapment.
Defining Entrapment in Texas
As stated above, entrapment occurs when law enforcement officers persuade a person to commit a crime that they would otherwise not have committed. In Texas, entrapment occurs when a police officer:
- Uses outright persuasion to get someone to commit a crime
- Makes repeated direct requests to a person to commit a crime
- Uses financial incentives, sexual favors or emotional manipulation to coerce a person into committing a crime
In other words, a police officer would have to make a direct, intentional effort to convince someone to commit a crime for an entrapment defense to be valid. In most sting operations, entrapment is avoided by allowing people to initiate the attempt to commit a crime.
For example, in a sex sting operation, if a person engages in certain activities, they may meet the requirements for initiating the attempt to commit a crime. Such activities can include:
- Approaching a prostitute of their own free will
- Offering to pay a prostitute for sex
- Visiting a prostitute with cash and condoms in their possession
In these situations, entrapment would not be a valid defense because the defendant initiated the attempted illegal activity. The mere presence of a police officer posing as a prostitute is not considered motivation to commit a crime.
Successful Entrapment Defenses
Even though successful entrapment defenses are not extremely common, they may still apply in certain cases. In order for an entrapment defense to be successful, a defense attorney will have to present evidence in court that shows that law enforcement engaged in inappropriate behavior.
For example, entrapment may be declared if a defense attorney can submit evidence in court showing that a law enforcement officer:
- Used force to coerce a person into committing a crime
- Used bribes or sexual favors to encourage a person to commit a crime
- Repeatedly attempted to persuade a person to commit a crime
Entrapment may be a valid defense if evidence shows that law enforcement officials actively attempted to cause a crime to occur. An officer who simply provides an opportunity for a crime to occur has not engaged in entrapment.
A successful entrapment defense may result in some or all criminal charges being reduced or dropped. This could mean that a defendant with a successful entrapment defense may avoid being incarcerated or fined and may be able to have their record expunged.
In addition, a successful entrapment defense may lead to punishments for law enforcement officers involved in the case. Any responsible officers may be fined, suspended or fired from the police force. In addition, any evidence gathered from an entrapment scenario may not be eligible for court submission in other trials.