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Florida officials conduct online sting against sex offenders

Florida law enforcement officials recently concluded a 15-day initiative against alleged sex offenders.

The program, which was operated by the state’s Department of Law Enforcement, specifically targeted the crime of online solicitation of a minor. At the end of the operation, authorities had brought charges against 15 men.

The defendants, who range in age from 23 to 68 years old, reportedly do not have criminal records to their histories. In addition, none of the suspects currently have jobs that involve working with children. Nevertheless, if convicted, the men could be required to register as sex offenders. They may also face sentences of up to 15 years in prison.

Authorities credit the undercover sting operation as a success. However, a sex crimes attorney might have additional questions regarding the procedures used to lure -- and potentially entrap -- the suspects. For starters, authorities have not disclosed the specific methods they used to initiate contact with the suspects.

Presumably, they are facing charges of online solicitation. However, a sex crimes attorney might question whether the elements of that criminal offense are present in each of these cases.

With just a click of a mouse button, an Internet user might find that he or she has arrived at an unintended website. In this case, the extent of online communications with undercover officers has not been revealed to the media. It’s also unclear whether the suspects believed they were communicating with minors. By comparison to the sex crime of traveling to meet a minor, however, no actual harm may have been inflicted by the accused. 

Source: wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu, “FDLE Operation Arrests 15 for Solicitation,” Nathan Powell, Oct. 21 2013

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