Commonwealth Court Rejects “Forfeiture Entrapment” Defense

Using one’s vehicle as collateral in a drug deal at the insistence of law enforcement does not give rise to an entrapment defense to forfeiture of the vehicle, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held in Com. v. Black 2009 Ford Mustang, __ A.3d __ (No. 2132 CD 2014, filed Oct. 14, 2015). On August 5, 2013, undercover police officers purchased prescription pills from Jon Keller. Keller offered to sell cocaine to one of the officers, Adam Bruckhart. A second meeting was arranged, at which Keller agreed to sell seven grams of cocaine to Bruckhart for $400. Keller asked Bruckhart to front the $400 in cash and wait for him to return with the cocaine. When Bruckhart objected, Keller agreed to take $200 in cash and leave the keys to his Ford Mustang with Bruckhart as collateral. Keller later returned with a small amount of cocaine and was arrested and eventually convicted of drug charges. The Commonwealth petitioned to forfeit the vehicle, which the trial court granted on the basis that it was used to facilitate a drug transaction. Keller appealed, arguing that because Bruckhart insisted he use the vehicle as collateral the police engaged in “forfeiture entrapment.”

The Commonwealth Court rejected Keller’s entrapment defense and affirmed the forfeiture. Judge Leavitt, writing for the unanimous panel, observed that the Forfeiture Act, 42 Pa. C.S. §§6801-6802, provides an innocent owner defense, not an entrapment defense. The Act does not require that the idea to use a vehicle to facilitate an illegal drug sale must originate with the drug dealer for the vehicle to be forfeitable. The Court further explained that, even if entrapment was a defense under the Forfeiture Act, Keller could not invoke it because the police behavior in this case was not “outrageous and egregious,” which is necessary to support the defense. Here, the police simply provided an opportunity for Keller to commit a crime, which he was predisposed to doing when he offered to sell cocaine to Bruckhart.

By | 2017-05-19T22:51:26+00:00 November 2nd, 2015|Categories: Administrative Law, Constitutional Law|Tags: , , , , , , , |Comments Off on Commonwealth Court Rejects “Forfeiture Entrapment” Defense

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