Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum

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What really constitutes entrapment?

In the 1999 film "Entrapment," starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jones' character convinces Connery, an aged thief, to help her steal an expensive piece of art. Because of the title of the movie, and the shenanigans that ensued, a lot of people across the nation probably believed that this was an example of entrapment. There are some who may still believe this to this day.

Like with most things in Hollywood though, the creators of this movie took some creative license with the story, including what entrapment actually is in accordance with the law. This might leave you asking today's question: what really constitutes entrapment? Let's take a look at the law and an example that might clarify the legalese.

According to the Office of the United States Attorneys, entrapment requires two distinct elements, which include: inducement of a crime by the government and a defendant's lack of predisposition to commit the crime in the first place. In basic terms, a person accused of a crime could claim entrapment if they were persuaded to commit a crime that they would not have committed otherwise.

It's important to point out though that a successful defense requires one key component: a law enforcement agent must do more than simply suggest or offer an opportunity to commit a crime. Their behavior must instead show that they induced the crime through actions such as threats or harassment in order to qualify as entrapment.

Using the example of Jones and Connery from the film "Entrapment," if Jones' character had been a law enforcement officer who had suggested stealing artwork and Connery's character knew it was wrong but went along with it anyway, an entrapment defense could not be used because this does not meet the threshold of inducement.

On the other hand, if Jones' character persistently kept encouraging Connery's character to steal the artwork -- despite his protests -- until he finally caved in, then Connery's character might have grounds for entrapment because her actions may have provoked him to commit the crime.

So Hollywood didn't quite get it right, but we hope our Georgia readers will use this as a learning moment and speak to an attorney about the criminal charges against them. Because depending on the facts of the case, entrapment could be a factor, which is something you might not be able to spot on your own.

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Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum

Former Federal Prosecutors

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