Our firm has represented many defendants in Fort Worth with cases stemming from a bait car or a Backpage ad. For those of you not familiar with either, let me explain Bait Cars and Backpage.
What is a Bait Car?
A Bait Car is vehicle owned by the police department and equipped with GPS devices and cameras. But, the car looks like any regular car on the street. The police typically place something valuable inside the Bait Car, such as a paint spray rig, and then they park the car (with the keys inside) on the side of the street in a low-income part of town. If someone tries to steal the bait car or the valuables inside, the GPS is triggered, the camera is activated, and the police are alerted. In most cases, the person does not get very far before a patrol car arrives to arrest them for theft.
What is Backpage?
I doubt I can fully explain what Backpage is or how it is used, but in the cases that we see, Backpage is a website (akin to Craigslist) where escorts and ladies of the night advertise their services. Potential Johns can browse the Backpage website to arrange an interlude of momentary love. The police have been using Backpage and arranging for a female officer to meet men at a local motel room posing as a prostitute. With backup officers waiting in the bathroom, the John is arrested for Solicitation of a Prostitute when they arrive to meet the woman/officer they contacted on Backpage.
Is it Entrapment for the Police to Use a Bait Car or to Advertise on Backpage?
We get this question in every Bait Car or Backpage case. To answer the question, we typically explain that fairness and equity are not the same as the legal defense of entrapment. Just because the police conduct doesn’t seem fair or because we think the police are “creating the crimes,” does not mean that it is entrapment.
Section 8.06 of the Texas Penal Code defines the affirmative defense of Entrapment:
“It is a defense to prosecution that the actor engaged in the conduct charged because he was induced to do so by a law enforcement agent using persuasion or other means likely to cause persons to commit the offense.”
The Penal Code goes on to explain that: “Conduct merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment.”
Therein lies the rub. By using a Bait Car and by advertising escort services on Backpage, the Fort Worth police are “merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense,” so under the law, entrapment would not apply to these situations. Don’t get me wrong, we hate Bait Cars and Backpage. We wish the police would use their time and resources toward real crimes, rather than “creating opportunities” for people to commit crimes. Why in the world would we want to create opportunities for people to commit crimes in the first place? That is similar to setting up a keg right outside the AA meeting with a sign for free beer.
Whether we like it or not, entrapment does not apply as an affirmative defense in these cases. Regardless, our attorneys still fight hard to get bait car and Backpage cases dismissed, reduced, or mitigated any way we can. Anecdotally, we’ve seen that a lot of prosecutors don’t like these cases any more than we do. Hopefully, we will see bait cars and Backpage go away soon, but until then, know that Entrapment won’t help you if you choose the wrong car or the wrong escort.
Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC
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