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Can the Government Really Set People Up Like That?

bum.jpgHere in Orlando, it’s common to see the government break the law. They do it all the time, especially in cases of drug trafficking and sale and delivery charges. How, you say? Well, as the saying goes, the means justify the ends, so the government breaks the law in the name of catching would-be criminals. Thus we find the classic “set-up” scenario. For example, police set up a drug deal (illegal–conspiracy to commit trafficking / sale and delivery, racketeering, etc), bring the drugs to the deal (illegal–delivery of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, or trafficking in a controlled substance), etc etc. So, just how far can the police go?

At the risk of throwing around too many big legal words, the line the police often cross in these situations can lead to dismissal thru a defense called “entrapment”. Entrapment comes in many forms, but today I want to simply discuss one of my favorite cases, Cruz v. State, 465 So. 2d 516 (Fla. 1985). This case went all the way up to the Florida Supreme Court, let’s find out why.

In Cruz, police had an officer pose as a drunk bum, smelling of alcohol and even pretending to drink out of a wine bottle (illegal–loitering, disorderly intoxication, open container, trespass, etc). In obvious plain view was $150 out of a rear pants pocket. Cruz happened to walk by once, then fifteen minutes later returned and Cruz took the money from the decoy bum’s pocket, without harming the fake officer in any way. Of course, officers immediately arrested Cruz as he walked away.

The Florida Supreme Court overturned Cruz’s conviction for grand theft, citing the entrapment concept that this set-up created a “substantial risk that such an offense will be committed by persons other than those who are ready to commit it.” Though there are a few types of entrapment out there, that quote pretty much sums up one type of entrapment defense. The Cruz case has been somewhat altered over the years (see Florida Statute 777.201’s changes), but the lesson here remains the same–if the government tries too hard to entice it’s citizens to break the law, call an Orlando defense lawyer that can help you with your problems, I know a good one….