Entrapment Through the Lens of the Actio Libera in Causa

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The entrapment defense is a puzzle of long standing. One the one hand, we are offended by the government’s subjecting someone vulnerable to extreme temptation. It seems like something anyone might fall prey to. On the other hand, it is hard to explain why someone who actually commits, or attempts a crime, and who would be liable if anyone other than the government had tempted him, should escape punishment. His blameworthiness seems the same. This essay seeks to illuminate this puzzle by showing how it parallels the long-standing debate surrounding the criminal law problem of the actio libera in causa—situations in which someone seeks to escape liability by contriving to put a certain defense in place, such as provoking his victim into attacking him, so that he can then kill him in self-defense. The parallels between the two problems do not serve to resolve either, but make them appear in a rather different light.


Criminal law, entrapment

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Crimial Law and Philosophy