What qualifies as entrapment?
August 29, 2012 5:56 AM   Subscribe

Could one argue entrapment successfully for illegal use of car pool lane if there is heavy traffic caused by ongoing traffic enforcement?

My wife and I were discussing this today. I supposed that if traffic is heavily congested due to drivers being pulled over for traffic violation on the freeway and a person chooses to bypass the blockage by using the car pool lane illegally they could argue entrapment if they were cited and possibly be successful. She felt that would open the door to any crime during traffic enforcement. What can the lawyers of Metafilter tell me about this?
We live in MN and this is theoretical for us and YANML.
posted by The Violet Cypher to Law & Government (15 answers total)
"I found violating the law to be convenient" is generally not a particularly solid defense in US courts.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:02 AM on August 29, 2012 [40 favorites]

I think if the police were purposely blocking traffic to see if they could lure normally law-abiding citizens who would never think about cheating HOV otherwise, then maybe. But that's an "assuming a spherical horse" situation because who hasn't thought of cheating the HOV when stuck in traffic?
posted by JoanArkham at 6:06 AM on August 29, 2012

from the Wikipedia article Bait car -

However, from a legal standpoint, bait cars are not considered entrapment because they merely afford criminals the opportunity to steal the car; entrapment, on the other hand, constitutes law enforcement persuading or encouraging a person to commit a crime that they would not have committed otherwise.

so if you'd have used the car pool lane due to non-police caused congestion, then you weren't entrapped. I really can't see your proposed defence getting anything other than laughs.
posted by russm at 6:09 AM on August 29, 2012

I can't imagine any circumstance where that would be entrapment -- they're not trying to force people into the carpool lane by pulling people over -- the delay is incidental, not the intention. (Even if it were intentional, you still have an obvious law-abiding path.)

For there to be any traction in this scenario, it would need to be one where you don't have any other safe choice. If, for example, there were an accident, or police action completely blocking the non-carpool lanes, and you chose to use the carpool lane, you would have a defense, but even then, it wouldn't be entrapment.
posted by mercredi at 6:09 AM on August 29, 2012

If, say, there was an additional police officer directing traffic around an accident and into the HOV lane, and a further officer pulling people over for violating HOV lane laws, then you could prolly have a logical argument that something shitty was afoot. Otherwise, people are voluntarily entering the lane.
posted by elizardbits at 6:11 AM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've been waved around an accident to the HOV lane, no one was ticketing on the other side. Also been 'honked' through a toll gate by a lit, alarmed ambulance; when I tried to pay the next day the toll taker said there was no need.
posted by tilde at 6:30 AM on August 29, 2012

It's definitely not entrapment.
posted by unixrat at 6:33 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: That is not what entrapment is. Per a fairly broad-strokes article in Slate, entrapment needs to be three things.

1. The idea of committing the crime came from law enforcement officers, rather than the defendant. (in the usual case this is "Hey we have drugs for you to buy" where you wouldn't have been buying drugs otherwise)

2. The law enforcement officers induced the person to commit the crime. (i.e. they said "traffic congested, use car pool lane")

3. The defendant was not ready and willing to commit this type of crime before being induced to do so. (you have no history of ever having violated traffic laws before)

You do not have any right to not be stuck in traffic, whatever the cause. Getting around traffic/congestion by doing something illegal is you opting, of your own accord, to commit a traffic violation. That said in my IANAL opinion, this sort of thing isn't going to happen because if there's some sort of traffic sting going on, they're not also going to be policing the carpool lane at the same time as they are pulling over speeders. It's just not generally how traffic enforcement works.
posted by jessamyn at 6:52 AM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Under your scenario, if enough inconvenienced drivers choose to enter the HOV lane when there's police action up ahead, then the HOV lane could be blocked, and since that's the only available lane at that point, then everyone who thinks like you would end up blocking the only route available to tow trucks, not to mention emergency vehicles, and you wuold then (ethically if not legally) be responsible for accident victims not receiving timely treatment or, even worse (apparently), longer traffic delays.

Because the thing is, you don't know why the police are up ahead; it's heavy traffic and you can't see around the next curve in the road, much less know for sure what's going on. It could be a roadblock designed to catch an escaped convict or a terrorist sniper killing multiple people at random (true story). It could be a disabled vehicle in the center lane. It could be an accident or a heart attack. Or it could be the end of the month and they're just out there to meet their ticket quota, gleefully inconveniencing commuters.

But if you block the only route available to the people whose job it is to respond to traffic-causing situations, then you are responsible for whatever negative consequences result.

No, it's not entrapment, it's just selfishness. Also, carpooling saves money, gas, and Mother Earth.
posted by headnsouth at 6:54 AM on August 29, 2012

Response by poster: For clarity we were riding in the car pool lane together when discussing this. I am not proposing anyone do it and I think it would make the system worse for all of us. Sorry if I was unclear on that.

What I am asking is could a driver successfully argue entrapment from that scenario.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 7:03 AM on August 29, 2012

What I am asking is could a driver successfully argue entrapment from that scenario.

The general consensus here - from a bunch of non-lawyers, which as good as you'll get - is "definitely not."
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:06 AM on August 29, 2012

I am a criminal defense lawyer and the answer is no.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 7:22 AM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been to traffic court a number of times (in my youth, I don't have a lead foot anymore.) You would be amazed at what you can get away with. Once I got out of an expensive parking ticket because I aruged that the sign was ambiguously punctuated. Never underestimate the value of comic relief.

In the very same traffic court absolutely NO ONE was able to argue his or her way out of the car pool lane ticket. (This was in Alameda County and these were people cheating the toll and the line across the Bay Bridge). I heard every excuse, reason, argument you can imagine. Hishonor was unimpressed.

So based upon the above definitions of entrapment and an anecdotal understanding of traffic court, I'd say no.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:52 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sounds like No is the answer. Thanks for the input guys.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 8:13 AM on August 29, 2012

if traffic is heavily congested due to drivers being pulled over for traffic violation on the freeway

I have never seen this, unless you're referring to rubberneckers, in which case the answer is still "no."
posted by rhizome at 1:40 PM on August 29, 2012

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