The Story of Jacobson V United States: Catching Criminals or Creating Crime?

CRIMINAL LAW STORIES, Robert Weisberg, ed., Foundation Press, Forthcoming

Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 06-12

30 Pages Posted: 20 May 2005 Last revised: 2 Nov 2012

Gabriel "Jack" Chin

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: November 1, 2012

Abstract

This book chapter, an entry in the forthcoming Criminal Law Stories, gives the background and impact of Jacobson v. United States, 503 U.S. 540 (1992), a landmark case in the revitalization of the entrapment defense. In Jacobson, the Supreme Court found that the defense of entrapment was available as a matter of law, even though the defendant had been convicted by a jury of the unsavory offense of receiving child pornography. 5 to 4, the Court was persuaded that the 26-month-long sting operation, which involved numerous mailings and letters, persuaded a person who had never before purchased unlawful child pornography do do so. Accordingly, Jacobson was not criminally liable. Jacobson has had a substantial impact. The decision provided the basis for juries to acquit based on overaggressive police tactics, and for judges - including those with hard-nosed reputations like Richard Posner and Alex Kosinski - to reverse when juries convicted where the evidence showed police encouragement overcame a defendant's initial reluctance to commit an offense. In addition, some scholars have claimed that Jacobson is the first supreme court majority opinion which expressed the slightest empathy for any homosexual.

Keywords: Entrapment, criminal law, defenses

JEL Classification: K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Chin, Gabriel "Jack", The Story of Jacobson V United States: Catching Criminals or Creating Crime? (November 1, 2012). CRIMINAL LAW STORIES, Robert Weisberg, ed., Foundation Press, Forthcoming; Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 06-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=725281

Gabriel Jackson Chin (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
400 Mrak Hall Dr.
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States
520-401-6586 (Phone)
530-754-5311 (Fax)

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