Law: Proof Requiring, Appeal and Sentencing

Case Briefs

United States v. Diaz-Maldonado, 727 F.3d 130 (2013)


The case was argued for 5 days with the jury reaching a decision on 30 March 2012. Christian Diaz-Maldonado was a Commonwealth correctional officer and the target of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) during investigations of corrupt law enforcement officers who engaged in illegal activities. Diaz-Maldonado was approached by an FBI confidential informant called “Cotto” who presented Diaz-Maldonado with an opportunity to help him in providing security during a drug transaction in exchange of money (JUSTIA US Supreme Court Center, 2017). After several meetings and phone conversations, Diaz-Maldonado accepted to assist in the transaction not knowing that the FBI controlled it (FindLaw, 2017a). The transaction occurred on 10 September 2017 at an apartment in Isla Verde where the police arrested and charged Diaz-Maldonado and fifteen others.

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The FBI arrested Diaz-Maldonado after a staged drug transaction. The government prevented Diaz-Maldonado from raising an entrapment defense in his opening statement. The jury sentenced Diaz-Maldonado and the court decided that the entrapment defense was inadmissible.


The jury sentenced Diaz-Maldonado to a 123-month jail term. On appeal, his conviction was upheld by the court, and the defense of entrapment was declined.


The judges decided that Diaz-Maldonado did not provide adequate evidence to persuade the jury to consider if there was an overreach by the government in his arrest. According to FindLaw (2017a), there was no hard evidence provided by Diaz-Maldonado to establish the use of entrapment as a defense.

Dissenting Opinion

The government created and presented the opportunity to commit the crime to Diaz-Maldonado. The approach by the confidential informant was in a recreational manner that was choreographed to manipulate Diaz-Maldonado (JUSTIA US Supreme Court Center, 2017). The presentation of the crime was repetitive as the confidential informant made several approaches, which were convincing of hefty returns and raised more interest in seizing the opportunity.

Hampton v. United States – 425 U.S. 484 (1976) No. 74-5822


The court sentenced Hampton for an offense of selling heroin supplied by a government informant to government agents. The sentence was for two sales by the petitioner to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents on 25 and 26 February 1974 at St. Louis (Gardner & Anderson, 2014). The petitioner appealed to be acquitted of his crime on an entrapment defense in consideration that the government informant supplied the drug irrespective of whether he was predisposed to commit the crime or not. The government denied him the due process by supplying him with the contraband.


The government supplied the illegal contraband during the investigation. If proven that the defendant’s narcotic sale was from the government, then the defendant would have been acquitted as the law forbids it (JUSTIA US Supreme Court, 2017). In such a defense, the predisposition of the defendant does not matter if the involvement of the government reaches such a point.

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The court charged petitioner with two counts of heroin distribution and sentenced to five years imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction upon appeal.


The court ordered that the defendant acknowledged the predisposition to commit the crime as his actions were in concert with the government informant and agents. According to JUSTIA US Supreme Court (2017), the court stated that the claim of violation of the due process is insufficient and the entrapment defense is unavailable to the petitioner’s case.

Dissenting Opinions

For the Drug Enforcement Administration to supply an illegal substance such as heroin is discerning. Thus, the criminal activity, in this case, emanated from an elaborate plan by the government from the beginning to end.

Jacobson v. United States, 503 U.S. 540 (1992) No. 90-1124


The case argued on 6 November 1991 and decided on 6 April 1992 (FindLaw, 2017b). Jacobson ordered magazines containing images of undressed adolescent and pre-adolescent males during a time that it was yet to be illegal. Jacobson received mails from fabricated fake businesses and letters during the investigation to see if Jacobson would commit the offence of purchasing magazines pertaining child pornography. Jacobson purchased a magazine after twenty-six months of invites and being in the government mailing list (FindLaw, 2017b). The court convicted Jacobson, and during his jury trial, he pleaded entrapment, as police arrested him because of an organized delivery of the magazine copies arguing that his interest grew over time because of the constant mails.


To determine whether Jacobson was predisposed to commit the crime before the government solicited him with the mailings or the government provided the proof beyond reasonable doubt.


The defendant was not found with any other illegal material and the time it took the government to purchase the material illustrates that the defendant would not have made the purchase if not for the continuous mailings. The Supreme Court reversed the jury’s conviction.


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The government did not provide the proof beyond reasonable doubt for the reliance on the legal purchase of pornographic material does not prove disposition.

Dissenting Opinions

The period that determined the defendant’s predisposition changed from the time of offer to commit a crime to the government’s first encounter with the defendant in disregard of the decision considered by the jury during sentencing. The law, in this case, does not require specific intent to prove the predisposition as the court only needed to regard that the defendant knew that he was committing a crime. The argument that the purchase of a material considered legal at that at the time of purchase makes the evidence admissible. The court only needed to regard that the defendant knew that he was committing a crime.


Did you have probable cause to approach the defendant while he was parked at the traffic light?

Yes, there is probable cause to approach the defendant while he parked at the traffic light as he was in a neighborhood known for drug activity. By considering the background of the setup area, the odds of the person being predisposed to commit a crime such as buying the drugs are high. As background odds offer estimates of the probability to commit a crime, the probability of a person stopping to purchase an illegal drug is high in such a location (Gaines, & Kremling, 2013). In addition, the approach does not necessarily mean that the person has to take the bait.

Do you feel that the entrapment defense is a valid one, considering the assignment scenario?

I feel that the entrapment defense is not valid because the defendant consented to the approach made. The legal basis of entrapment is that without such inducement or coercion the crime would never have been committed. Essentially, entrapment is a tough defense to ascertain because it requires a defendant to prove that the government agent presented the criminal idea and the defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime.

For a defense of entrapment to be valid, the defendant must lack the predisposition to be involved in the criminal act, and there must be inducement of the crime by the government. Therefore, entrapment is not a valid defense in this scenario as there was no inducement or solicitation. When approached, the defendant and his actions assented to the predisposition to commit the crime and did not show hesitance upon seeing the illegal substance.

Is providing the opportunity for someone to commit a crime the same as entrapment?

Providing an opportunity for someone to commit a crime is not necessarily the same as entrapment. Entrapment can only occur when an opportunity is presented, in this case, by a government official such as a police officer or a security agent but not by a private individual. Concerning both the defendant’s response to the opportunity presented and the enforcement officer’s response to the defendant’s response, the legal issue of entrapment is evident.

If a police officer presents an opportunity to commit crime, and one utilizes this opportunity immediately as presented, it implies that he/she is a potential criminal, and thus, the presentation of an opportunity does not constitute entrapment. As per the normal expectation, any innocent person will decline the criminal opportunity offered. Therefore, providing an opportunity is not the same as entrapment if an individual is tempted into committing a criminal offense with the intention of gaining something in return.

If the substance were marijuana, how much would be needed for a misdemeanor charge? A felony?

Federal laws regard Marijuana as an illegal drug, but in most states, the laws significantly differ on possession. To get a misdemeanor, a quantity exceeding 28.5 grams or one ounce results in a charge, and on the other hand if caught with an amount more than one kilogram it raises to a felony charge (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 2017). Although in Washington D.C. and 10 other states the felony charge of possessing marijuana does not exist, the majority of the other states such as Montana still criminalize marijuana for its possession can lead to a 3-year Jail term. In other states, marijuana is legal and under controlled use for medical and recreational purposes.

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Other Questions

What is the difference between an intermediate appellate court and a high appellate court? Are they referred to by other names?

Level, roles, and jurisdiction are three aspects of the appellate justice system that differentiate an intermediate appellate court and a high appellate court. In the aspect of the level, an intermediate appellate court ranks second in the judicial system. Fundamentally, the intermediate appellate court is lower than a high appellate court but greater than a trial court. In comparison, a high appellate court is at the highest level of the appellate justice system. Thus, in a hierarchy, a high appellate court is greater than an intermediate appellate court.

An intermediate court and a high appellate court also differ in roles that they perform in the appellate justice system and the criminal justice system. An intermediate appellate has two major roles, namely, reviewing judgments of trial courts and formulating precedents in the criminal justice system (Doerne & Markman, 2012). In the role of reviewing judgments, an intermediate court checks if trial courts made appropriate application of the law and assessed if judgments do have adverse decisions.

In the role of formulating precedents, an intermediate court seeks to expedite resolution of cases in the criminal justice system. Moreover, an intermediate appellate court has immense work because it does not have the power to decline appeals brought before it. Overall, the role of an intermediate appellate court is to alleviate the workload of the Supreme Court by resolving most cases and providing the last resolution of cases to most appellants.

In contrast, a high appellate court is the ultimate court of appeal established by Article III of the U.S constitution. A high appellate court reviews judgments and decisions from trial courts and the intermediate appellate courts and makes independent decisions. It has the powers to instruct and direct lower courts to perform certain judicial functions. Additionally, a high appellate court decides on the nature of appeals that it hears and determines.

In the aspect of jurisdiction, an intermediate appellate court has its jurisdiction within the state while a high appellate court has its jurisdiction across states in the United States. An intermediate appellate court reviews judgments made by trial courts within a state. Currently, 41 out of 50 states have intermediate appellate courts, but their jurisdictions vary from state to state, depending on their laws and regulations (United States Court, 2017). In contrast, a high appellate court has extensive jurisdiction because it dominates federal courts and deals with state cases involving constitutional issues and federal law matters. The decision made by a high appellate court is binding on all federal and state courts. It only has original jurisdiction in New York where the court of appeal is the highest court.

Another name of an intermediate appellate court is the US Circuit Court of Appeal because it forms the circuit courts of the United States. Informally, they are ‘workhorses’ of the appellate justice system because they alleviate the workload of the high appellate court (Doerne & Markman, 2012). The other name of a high appellate court is the Supreme Court because it is the ultimate court of the United States.

What options does the court have regarding the case in question?

Regarding the case in question, the court of appeal has the option of affirming or reversing the judgment entered by the trial court. A bench of judges majorly rules where the appellate court will decide on whether there was an error by the lower court in its judgment concerning entrapment as raised by the appellant. The court of appeal can neither retry the case nor hear new evidence, but it reviews the case as adjudicated by the trial court. In considering the decision of the trial court, the court of appeal decides whether the argument of entrapment is admissible to the case or if there was an error in law.

In the evaluation of the entrapment defense, the court examines the conduct of the officer who made the approach during arrest and decides whether the approach made could have caused the defendant to commit the crime or not. The court will also consider the events that led to the crime and the defendant’s response to the approach made by the officer (American Bar Association, 2017). Therefore, with the seriousness of the crime as it involves the purchase of illegal drugs, the review of the officers’ conduct and the manner in which the defendant was approached provides substantial information that is central in ruling the appeal.

Further, in deciding whether the defendant was entrapped, the court will consider what a normal law abiding citizen would do in such a situation. The defendant’s particular intentions or character would be of concern if the defendant had the predisposition to commit the crime (JUSTIA, 2017). The defendant must prove that he committed the crime because of the conduct of the police for the entrapment defense to stand.

Finally, after reviewing the case and the court finds that the defense is valid and the trial court had an error in law with consideration to entrapment and if the error is severe enough. The court will decide that the judgment by the court be reversed. Upon reversal, the case will be sent back to the trial court for further action. The court of appeal may order that a new trial be held or, the trial court’s judgment be rectified. It may also order that the trial court reconsiders the facts of the case, take additional evidence about entrapment, and consider the case regarding the recent decision by the appellate court.

The court also has the option of affirming the trial court’s decision if it finds that an error did not occur in the decision. Moreover, the court can affirm the trial court’s decision if the entrapment defense is not sufficient to prove innocence, and thus, regards it as inadmissible to the case. In this view, the affirmation means that court of appeal standby facts, issues, reasoning, and decisions of the trial court. Thus, the affirmation makes the appellant to serve sentence made by the trial court and affirmed by the appellate court unless the appellant makes further appeal at the Supreme Court. Ultimately, the dismissal of the appeal reaffirms the decision of the trial court, and thus, the written decision of the case sets a precedent in the jurisdiction of the trial court.

If the appellate court finds that the defense is valid and reverses the judgment, will you be held liable either civilly, criminally, or both? Will the department be held liable?

A court cannot hold the department or me criminally liable if they reverse the judgment of drug trafficking. As a police officer, I have a duty of arresting suspected criminals and arraigning them in courts for the judges to determine if the evidence presented meets the required threshold of beyond reasonable doubt. It is not the duty of a police officer to determine if evidence provided are adequate to convict the appellant.

Thus, the prosecution presented evidence to the court, and the judges examined and made an appropriate ruling based on the available evidence and arguments presented. Moreover, as police officers are entitled to a qualified immunity while undertaking their duties, the court or appellant cannot hold me criminally liable for unlawful arrest and prosecution. Legally, entrapment is a defense but not a cause of action that one can use in pleading criminal liability.

Therefore, the court cannot reverse the judgment and transfers criminal liability to lower courts, prosecution, or the police for entrapment was the argument of defense, which can only be confirmed if true or false for purposes of affirming or reversing the sentence. Thus, if the appellant can offer adequate evidence, then, the police officers, prosecution, and the department would be civilly liable for unlawful prosecution.

However, the court cannot hold the department or me civilly liable for an unfair accusation of the appellant. I can be held personally liable for my actions as the defendant can file a lawsuit and prove that I violated his statutory or constitutional rights under the law. Regarding the department, the appellant can file a suit and demonstrate that the authorities’ actions exceeded reasonable grounds and infringed on the appellant’s constitutional rights (FindLaw, 2017c).

Most lawyers tend to file a suit against the department for its capability of paying larger settlements if found liable. Nevertheless, the appellant has to provide sufficient evidence, which proof that police officers or law enforcement agencies engage in illegal activities. The existence of previous or subsequent cases of entrapment should demonstrate the existence of a systematic participation of police officers or law enforcement agencies in illegal activities.

If you or the department is held liable, explain the theory involved

If the court finds the department or me liable, one theory that can apply is the ‘state-created danger’ theory. This theory applies if misconduct by an officer or the department leads to arrest and injurious damage to an innocent person. The liability theory aforementioned above is handy when the defendant is placed in a dangerous situation that he would not have been involved in if not for the enforcement officer’s conduct.

Most victims of police misconduct tend to rely on this theory, which illustrates the way of resolving cases involving the liability of police. If they find department or me liable, the court has to uphold the law and ensure that the victims receive justice for crimes committed against them, as in this case of entrapment.

The courts approach using the theory focuses on the tactics and strategies used by the enforcing officers in making liability decision. The court has to ensure that the remedy provided produces fewer complaints and a more nuanced police department. In most cases, a police officer is entitled to a personal liability insurance that provides cover if found liable for damages. In addition, the department can suspend the officer for certain duration until the case is solved. If the department is found liable, the agency often relies on out of court settlement to compensate a victim for damages incurred during an entrapment.


American Bar Association. (2017). Law court work: Appeals. Web.

Doerne, J., & Markman, C. (2012). The role of state intermediate appellate courts: Principles for adapting to change. Web.

FindLaw. (2017a). United States v. Díaz-Maldonado. Web.

FindLaw. (2017b). Jacobson v. United States. Web.

FindLaw. (2017c). Police misconduct and civil rights. Web.

Gaines, L., & Kremling, J. (2013). Drugs, crime, and justice: Contemporary perspectives. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

JUSTIA. (2017). Entrapment: Defenses and Insanity. Web.

JUSTIA US Supreme Court. (2017). Hampton v. United States 425 U.S. 484 (1976). Web.

JUSTIA US Supreme Court Center. (2017). United States v. Diaz, No. 15-1307. Web.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. (2017). Federal laws & penalties. Web.

United States Court. (2017). Court role and structure. Web.

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