Criminal Procedure Proof Requirements and Sentencing

Criminal Procedure Proof Requirements and Sentencing

Two Case laws

Case Law One

Title:  Sorrells V. United States (the United States Supreme Court 287 U.S 435 (1932))


Sorrells, the defendant, was befriended by an undercover federal agent during a time when liquor prohibition was in place.  While the two were at Sorrells’ place, the undercover agent (Martin) asked if Sorrells had liquor for him to consume but, he did not have it. The agent asked if the defendant would get out and buy him some, a request that Sorrells agreed. As such, Sorrells was convicted for violating the National prohibition act. After the appeal at the United States Supreme Court, Sorrells was granted a certiorari.


The conviction of Sorrells was done by the federal court based on the martin’s testimony as he was the one who asked about acquiring the liquor. In addition, there were other three witnesses who testified based on rebuttal as anchored on Sorrells reputation as a rumrunner. As a way of defending himself, Sorrells argued that he had informed Martin that he does not fool with whiskey a number of times before he agreed to get him one (Sorrells v. United States). One of the witnesses also agreed that he had no idea that Martin was a government agent nor did he know that Sorrells engaged in liquor smuggling (Sorrells v. United States). The timekeeper at the company where Sorrells worked testified of his good conduct and punctuality for the six years he was at the job and his neighbor testified on his good character (Sorrells v. United States). As such, the court did not allow entrapment charges to be raised and the ruling could not take place based on the law. However, the court of appeal affirmed the conviction and the court could only argue on entrapment as a defensive approach.   


The investigation was termed as a gross abuse of the authority. The presented evidence in the court was enough to warrant the findings that the manner in which prosecution was done on the defendant is through instigation as carried out by the prohibition agent (Sorrells v. United States). This is termed as a creature for his purpose and the fact that the defendant had no history or previous records of disposition to commit the offense, was an industrious and law-abiding citizen, it was ruled that he was otherwise innocent (Sorrells v. United States). The judge reached his conclusion by quoting the construing statutes which imply that the Congress main aim is to prevent crime rather than punishing it and thus entrapment had to be made available as a defense method.


The decision is termed as the unwarranted and strained construction of the statute which amounts to the judicial amendment. This should not be taken as a mere broad construction but rather it is an element which is not found in the legislation (Sorrells v. United States). As such, there was no rule or guide upon which the statute was to be read to exclude the case of entrapment and does not suggest any principle of statutory construction that will to argue that it is excluded by some statutes and not others. 

Dissenting Opinion

The only judge who was available to descent from the court decisions is Justice McReynolds. Though he did not publish an opinion on this case, he commented by inserting a notation at the bottom of the majority opinion noting that ‘he would vote to affirm’ (Sorrells v. United States). This is also known as graveyard dissent and was common in the Supreme Court, though it is rarely practiced nowadays.  

Case Law Two

Title: Frank Henry Marshall, petition v State of Alaska Respondent


In this case, trial is based on the misconduct of controlled substances. In the case proceedings, the defendant asserted on the affirmative defense of entrapment and thereof requested for a hearing. The case facts are as follows, on May 2006, the bench of judges convicted Frank Marshall with a second-degree misconduct which involves the possession of controlled substances (Justia U.S Law, 2018). The conviction is based on selling of OxyContin to the undercover agent, which was done on 25th November 2003. Two undercover police officers Margaret Purcell and Robert Clossey participated in Marshall Drug sell. Moreover, the two were arrested in April 2002 for selling OxyContin and were out to help the police to acquire favorable treatments (Justia U.S Law, 2018). 

Clossey contacted Marshall on 24th November 2003 who was alleged to be homeless and was under the prescription of OxyContin. Following these events, Marshall was taken to stay with the police though they do not confirm this and the defense theory claims that the informants drove him to the pharmacy to buy his prescriptions. The following day, Marshall made some arrangements with the undercover police officer to sell the drug. So as to conduct the sale, Clossey drove Marshall to a pre-arranged destination where undercover agent walked towards Marshall and upon negotiating by Clossey; Marshall handled the pills to the undercover agent. When they drove away,  Marshall and Clossey were pulled over and arrested and search of the car revealed receipt of the prescription bearing Marshall’s name, OxyContin pill and $600 in cash (Justia U.S Law, 2018).    


The proceeding of this case involves two critical judicial parties; the Supreme Court and the court of appeals. As a result of the drug sale, a grand jury indicted the defendant on 3 counts of misconduct which involves the sales of a controlled substance.  The defendant dismissed these counts arguing that the due process used was in violation of affirmative defense associated with entrapment. Marshall noted that the sale of OxyContin was initiated and planned by the undercover agent Clossey. He also noted that the pills could be of Clossey and not his; however his claim was refuted by the state opposition by arguing that he had no evidence that the pills belonged to Clossey (Justia U.S Law, 2018).

Marshall went ahead to appeal his conviction of entrapment and the court focused on breaking the deadlock on whether Marshall or Clossey had provided OxyContin the same focus as the Supreme Court did. At this junction, the court identified that Marshall had a chance to avail his evidence including the affidavit though he did not. As such, the court of appeal affirmed the conviction of Marshall but it held a pre-trial motion which necessitated a hearing only if there were precise parts that will support the evidence (Justia U.S Law, 2018).  The court of appeal presented hearing for Marshall Petition based on the question of whether there was an error on refusal to hold evidence when hearing the affirmative defense entrapment of Marshall.  


Criminal defendants should give a notice of their intention to depend on entrapment order, this is important because it helps to receive a hearing based on this matter. Since Marshall gave such a notice, he was entitled to a hearing and following this procedure, the case is hereby remanded to the superior court for proceeding which should be consistent with this opinion. 


The rationale supporting the final decision is based on the criminal rule 16 (c) (5) which protects the defendant against compelling a self-incrimination through asking them to disclose or to issue a notice in advance on their intention to depend on the affirmative defense for the entrapment (Justia U.S Law, 2018). This implies that there will be no additional evidence needed for the case. Therefore, asking the defendant to provide additional evidence on matters of entrapment to grant them evidently hearing violates the protection of the criminal rule 16 (c) (5) which also violates constitution provision of Alaska prohibiting against self-incrimination (Justia U.S Law, 2018).

Dissenting opinion

A closer evaluation of this case reveals that the defendant was not subjected to any kind of persuasion. Actually, the case reveals that it was the defendant who started the conversation which implies that he was willing to trade on a controlled substance. Again, it was Marshall who asked for an affirmative defense for the entrapment implying that he could not bring further evidence, which implies that the case if fair and valid.  

Further Question

Question One

Probable cause implies having reasonable grounds that convinces one or the court that the person or the accused have committed a crime. In this case, one has no probable cause to approach a person parking at the traffic light. It can, therefore, be argued that the main aim of approaching the victim was aimed at finding out whether he was among the victims. The defendant, in this case, should be the one to initiate everything since the undercover police have not information regarding the defendant criminal records or history. 

Question Two

Considering the assignment scenario, it is clear that the entrapment defense is not valid for this case because the defendant is the one who started the conversation by making an eye contact. Entrapment is a criminal defense charge which is only upheld if the defendant commits the crime due to coercion or harassment by the government agent or undercover police (Justia, 2018). Without this type of coercion, it is argued that crime will not have taken place. In entrapment, the defendant must prove that the impetus or the idea for the crime was introduced by the government agent and the defendant was not predisposed or willing to commit a crime (Justia, 2018).   

Question Three

Entrapment and providing an opportunity for a person to commit a crime are not the same. In an effort to discover and eliminate the criminal behavior, law enforcement officers have a provision in which they can engage in sting operations focused on establishing circumstances which allow persons to undertake criminal actions and then arrested and prosecute the offender for the same (Justia, 2018). This is different from providing an opportunity for people to commit the crime since they may go uncharged or unrested.  Opportunity to commit crime and entrapment are very different because the latter underscores mere temptation to violate the law since people are not forced to do it (Justia, 2018). As opposed to the opportunity to commit a crime, entrapment takes place when the undercover police overly encourage, harass or urge the person to commit a crime when otherwise they will not have committed (Justia, 2018).

Question Four If the substance was marijuana, it, therefore, implies that it qualifies to be a felony. This is because possession of controlled substance amounts to a felony while holding controlled substance for personal use amounts to a misdemeanor (Stine, 2018). The punishment for the possession of marijuana varies depending on the quantity in possession. A person found in possession of marijuana most likely constitutes a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor which takes place when the substance held is large enough for sales as opposed for individual consumption (Stine, 2018). Possession of more than 1kg amounts to a felony as seen in this case

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