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Vaden v. State

(1989)

Alaska Supreme Court - 768 P.2d 1102

tl;dr:

The public authority justification available to an undercover agent acting as the principal does not impute to the accomplice.

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ICRAIssue, Conclusion, Rule, Analysis for Vaden v. State

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Facts & HoldingVaden v. State case brief facts & holding

Facts:Vaden worked as a hunting guide in Alaska. It was...

Holding:Vaden was properly convicted, because the public authority justification that...

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Vaden v. State | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: COMPTON, Justice.
Level 1
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The case involves the convictions of two hunting guides for illegal hunting methods and possession and transportation of illegally taken game. The primary issue is whether the undercover operations by the State of Alaska warrant reversal of the convictions. Vaden appealed his convictions, arguing that he could not be held liable for aiding and abetting or transportation of illegally taken game. He also argued that the law enforcement tactics amounted to entrapment and violated due process. The court of appeals upheld Vaden's convictions, finding that he had not shown inducement by the police, which is required for the defense of entrapment. The Alaska Supreme Court rejected the entrapment defense raised by Vaden and Saltz, and the court of appeals upheld the decision. The conduct of the undercover agents did not violate due process. The court concluded that a justification defense is personal to the undercover agent and cannot be transferred to the accomplice. The court ordered the trial court to vacate two of the three counts in each group as some of the counts violated double jeopardy principles.

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Dissenting opinion, author: BURKE, Justice
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In this case, Justice Burke dissents from the majority opinion, stating that law enforcement officers cannot commit criminal acts to charge others as accessories to those same acts. The court concludes that the defendants' convictions should be quashed because the criminal act that serves as the basis for both the accomplice liability and the illegal transportation charges was supplied by government agents. The lower court erred in convicting the defendants based on the government's illegal conduct. The defense of outrageous government conduct is not applicable in this case because the defendants were not involved in a continuing series of similar crimes during the government conduct at issue. The accomplice liability charges should fail because the acts of a feigned accomplice cannot be imputed to the targeted defendant for conviction purposes. The defendant must have directly participated in enough of the entire transaction that the acts they personally committed alone are sufficient to make out a complete offense against the law. However, the potential for abuse inherent in law enforcement methods such as those employed in the case at bar is substantial, and the ultimate liability of the targeted defendant will depend upon which foreseeable crimes the agent chooses to commit in order to secure convictions against their criminal "accomplice."

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