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Florida sex offenders disclose online screen names

Under Florida state law, sex offenders and sexual predators are usually required to give authorities their email addresses and screen names before using them in social network or other online sites. That information is then forwarded to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which puts the identifying information on a sex offender registry website available to the public.

However, authorities say it can be difficult to keep up with the constantly expanding realm of social network sites, not to mention the personnel and hours required to track which sites are frequented by offenders. In fact, there may not even be safeguards to check whether sex offenders have created new screen names, instead of using the screen names they provided to authorities.

Instead of random audits, many enforcement officers rely on tips. Even in that scenario, however, an investigation can be time intensive to determine whether an offender is properly complying with sex registry requirements.

Perhaps in response to that manpower issue, the FBI recently implemented new software technology that now makes electronic invasions and searches easier than ever. The FBI reports that the tools are changing the way Internet crimes are being investigated. One agent reports that the programs have cut in half the time needed to investigate the data on a computer hard drive. Another source reports that the software has led to 330 searches and more than 220 arrests since its approval.

One thing is certain: The increased use of the Internet in people's daily lives has been accompanied by increased surveillance by enforcement agencies. Internet users should not rely on a false sense of anonymity. In the event an Internet user is charged for a sex crime by undercover officers in a sting operation, an experienced sex crimes attorney can fight for a defendant's procedural rights and require prosecutors to meet their applicable burden of proof at trial.

Source: tbo.com, "Sexual offenders frequent social network sites," Stephen Thompson, Jan. 28, 2013

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