When are undercover sex sting operations illegal?
When law enforcement tricks someone online into accepting sexual offers from a minor, the official creating the situation may be guilty of entrapment.
Engaging in online interactions with others in Georgia can be an innocent activity, and there are many websites that offer opportunities for people to find others who have the same interests. However, the inability to truly know the other person’s identity may create some difficulties if sexual innuendo or explicit language become part of the discussion. The age of the person on the other end of the line, and his or her intent, are impossible to verify. At times, law enforcement officials set up misleading encounters online in an attempt to make arrests.
Reports of entrapment cases
The goal of online sex sting operations is to prevent sexual predators from soliciting minors on the internet. However, according to WTVM.com, some people who respond to the false offers are not necessarily doing anything wrong. The wording of the invitation and the conversations that follow may be considered entrapment under certain circumstances.
USA Today reports that judges have ruled in favor of the defendant in cases where officers incited the alleged unlawful activity through improper techniques. For example, a young man who is a victim of entrapment may have believed he was talking to a woman who was of legal age, but the undercover official may attempt to convince him later in the conversation that he is talking to a minor.
Those who object to this type of tactic claim that law enforcement may have extra incentive to set up these sting operations in the form of government funding for uncovering sex crimes before they occur. This may then motivate the entrapment activity in order to make arrests and justify further support.
Entrapment as a defense
To prove entrapment, those who are charged with committing of a crime must show that they were talked into participation in an illegal act that they never would have initiated. Further, they must show that it was by this persuasion on the part of a law enforcement official that the evidence against them was obtained.
Merely accepting a false offer is not typically a defense. Instead, whether the operation is considered illegal depends on if the victim can be shown to have a predisposition to commit the act. Initial refusal of repeated offers may be an indication that there was no predisposition, and that the act never would have been committed if the officer had not coerced the defendant.
Entrapment is often difficult to prove. An experienced criminal law attorney may be able to help someone who has been engaged online by an undercover agent who uses illegal methods to make arrests.