Few people would argue that arresting and prosecuting true sexual predators who prey on children should be a focus of law enforcement agencies across the country; however, in the State of Florida, law enforcement agencies may be targeting the wrong people, according to a recent news report. In fact, undercover officers may be creating crimes instead of catching criminals, argue critics.
According to a report by Channel 10 News in Polk County, law enforcement agencies may be going too far during their “To Catch a Predator” undercover internet stings. The concept behind the stings is simple. An undercover officer poses as an underage child online in a chat room. The “child” then engages an adult in conversation that lead to discussions about illegal sexual activities. The idea is to find online “sexual predators”, bait them into committing sex crimes, and then arresting them. Law enforcement agencies then announce the capture of a “sexual predator” and the community breathes a sigh of relief. The problem is that the vast majority of the men arrested in these stings do not appear to be “sexual predators”.
Florida law defines a “sexual predator” as someone who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense, typically with a history of sex offense convictions. The Channel 10 report, however, found that of the 1,200 men arrested in Florida predator stings since 2008, 97 percent had no history of previous sexual offenses. Moreover, the majorities of the men involved in the stings are in their teens and early 20s and only entered chat rooms looking for women their own age. Undercover officers then bait them, eventually reveal their “real” age, and try and convince the suspects to do something illegal. Is this entrapment? Opponents of the stings argue that is most certainly is while law enforcement officials claim it is not. From a legal perspective, entrapment involves a law enforcement officer convincing or cajoling someone into doing something that he or she would not ordinarily do. Whether or not the stings amount to entrapment is a decision only a judge can make; however, at the very least, these defendants hardly appear to fit the profile of a true “sexual predator”.
For a suspect, the damage is often already done once an arrest has been made. Even if the suspect is later cleared of all charges – something that frequently occurs – the suspect’s name, and often his mug shot, has already been released to the public. Even a record expungement won’t erase the damage done as nothing can erase what has already been posted to the internet.
If you have been arrested and charged as a result of one of these internet stings, contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case. Contact Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC when you need a criminal defense attorney working for you. Keep Calm Call Us®! 727-531-2926.