Can Undercover Drug Stings Be Considered Entrapment in Florida?

Florida police are tough on drug activity. According to the most recent data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, police made over 3,000 drug arrests in 2020. Some of these arrests resulted from undercover drug stings, where police impersonate drug buyers or dealers to coerce people into committing crimes.

Drug sting operations are legal, but being tricked or encouraged into committing a crime during a sting is known as entrapment. Entrapment can be a legal defense if the police overstep the limits of their law enforcement duties — if argued successfully, entrapment can result in the dismissal of your case. However, Florida’s entrapment laws put a high burden of proof on defendants to meet.

Florida Entrapment Laws

Florida entrapment laws are explained under Statute §777.201. The statute says that a police officer perpetrates entrapment if they directly cause someone to commit a crime through encouragement or coercion.

Entrapment can be used as a defense in several criminal cases, including drug crimes. Stings are also used to make arrests for soliciting prostitution and other sex crimes, white-collar crimes, and more.

Are Drug Stings Entrapment?

Undercover sting entrapment can occur when an undercover officer lures in individuals that would not otherwise commit a crime, such as purchasing drugs or prostitution. The cash incentives often involved in drug stings can support a case for entrapment.

Reverse drug trafficking in stings is common in Florida. Officers might impersonate a drug dealer and even have genuine drugs to sell. Police might also arrange the purchase of a large quantity of drugs to make arrests for distribution or trafficking.

Entrapment Defense Against Drug Crime Charges

Some states follow the rule of objective entrapment, where juries must determine if the undercover officer’s actions caused an ordinarily law-abiding citizen to commit a criminal act.

Florida, however, follows the rule of subjective entrapment. This means juries must determine if the defendant would have committed the crime anyway without intervention or encouragement from the officer.

For this reason, the burden of proof is on the defendant to show that the officer’s actions directly caused them to commit the crime and that they didn’t have a motive to do so on their own. This can be a more demanding standard to meet than objective entrapment, but not an impossible one to successfully argue with the help of an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney.

While drug stings are legal, and police can lie about their identity if they are undercover, entrapment in stings is not inherent. An officer also can’t threaten or harass you into committing a crime you might not otherwise engage in. Undercover sting entrapment can be difficult to prove if the crime would have occurred without a law enforcement officer’s encouragement.

Exceptions to the Entrapment Defense

There are a few important exceptions that can prevent the entrapment defense from being used, such as:

  • When a middleman who is not a law enforcement officer or state agent encouraged the defendant to commit the crime
  • If there is evidence that an officer merely did not discourage the defendant from committing the crime (as opposed to actively encouraging)
  • If the defendant can only provide evidence that the government suggested or initiated committing the crime, rather than being coercive
  • If a government agent only supplies contraband (for example, drugs) or makes it available.

Suppose you were a victim of undercover sting entrapment, and none of the above exceptions apply in your case. In that case, you may have experienced a civil rights violation and be eligible to get your case dismissed.

Arrested in a Drug Sting? Call Metcalf Falls for Help Today

Undercover drug stings are a common tactic used by Florida police to secure drug arrests, and the war on drugs gives the police many freedoms and authorities to crack down on drug crimes. However, not every arrest stemming from a sting is legal.

If you were arrested in a drug sting and believe you experienced undercover sting entrapment, you might have legal options to get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether.

The law offices of Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., handle all types of drug crimes and are experienced in representing those arrested in sting operations. Our attorneys can fight to challenge your arrest’s validity and protect your rights.

Call today at 813-258-4800 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.