Law School Case Brief
Hernandez v. State - 17 So. 3d 748 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2009)
A court must evaluate all relevant circumstances and then determine whether the government conduct so offends decency or a sense of justice that judicial power may not be exercised to obtain a conviction. Defining the limits of due process is difficult because due process is not a technical conception within a fixed content unrelated to time, place and circumstances.
Defendant Edwin Hernandez was convicted in Florida state court of trafficking in cocaine. He reserved the right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss in which he alleged that he had been entrapped as a matter of law. Hernandez was the only witness at trial. He testified that he was addicted to cocaine and had been for the previous four to five years. He spent $ 80 to $ 120 every other day to purchase cocaine. Hernandez also used ecstasy, marijuana and other illegal drugs. Hernandez worked for a landscape company. On cross-examination, he admitted that his wages were insufficient to pay for both his daily living expenses and his illegal drugs and that to make up the difference he sold marijuana. Hernandez testified that he made approximately $ 100/week from his marijuana sales. He denied that he had ever previously sold cocaine. During the 2007 summer, Hernandez was contacted by a confidential informant who requested Hernandez's assistance in the purchase of either heroin or a large amount of cocaine. According to Hernandez, he told the informant "at least four or five times" that he did not want to be involved because it was "too risky." However, when the informant promised him a portion of the product, Hernandez agreed to locate a seller. Hernandez claimed he only agreed to participate in the drug transaction because of his addiction. Hernandez further testified the informant was aware of his "problem" and had previously sold him cocaine. When the seller, the informant, and Hernandez met to complete the transaction, law enforcement officers arrested the seller and Hernandez. The arrest took place on Sept. 13, 2007.
Did the trial court apply the incorrect test in evaluating Hernandez's entrapment defense?
The judgment of the trial court was reversed. The appellate court held that while the trial court may have correctly determined that Hernandez was not entitled to relief under Florida's entrapment statute, it failed to address the actual issued raised by his motion to dismiss, which was whether the government's alleged misconduct constituted a violation of his due process rights. On remand, the appellate court ordered the trial court to apply the objective test and determine whether there was a violation of Hernandez's due process rights.
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