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Sex stings in Florida: Controversy over tactics, reporting

Being convicted of a sexually-related offense can do untold damage to a person's life. In some cases, a person could spend the rest of his or her life in prison or bound by the restrictions of the sex offender registry. Even those who are convicted of minor offenses can live for years with the stigma of a sex crime conviction.

Unfortunately for any person facing accusations of sexual misconduct, law enforcement agents are more determined than ever to round up suspected sex offenders, and claim to have the results to support their efforts. However, when those efforts are put under the microscope, there is a very different picture being painted.

A Florida news outlet recently investigated police sting efforts that are routinely used across Florida. Authorities have launched massive busts targeting alleged offenders and "sexual predators." In one instance, a sheriff called a press conference to announce that they had arrested more than 130 people in stings in less than six months.

However, when investigators looked a little more closely at this information, they found that most of the people caught up in the sting had no history of sexual misconduct. Many of them were teens or in their 20s, and were only trying to meet up with someone their own age. In many cases, similar charges are ultimately dismissed as a result of entrapment claims. Some critics of these stings argue that instead of decreasing sex crimes, police efforts are actually creating more problems.

Other issues that were raised by looking at overzealous law enforcement efforts include reports that mug shots for people arrested for sex crimes are used to back enforcement efforts, even if the people in the pictures were found not guilty or the cases were dismissed.

Unfortunately, the claims that police efforts cross the line and do more harm than good are not isolated to one place or one situation. Numerous people are caught up in overly aggressive stings and have had their reputations and names smeared by the publicizing of their arrest, even if they are never convicted.

Questioning police efforts and scrutinizing arrest reports can be crucial in protecting a person from damaging charges, convictions or sentences. Instead of trying to tackle all this alone, people who have been charged with or are under investigation for a sex crime may strongly consider discussing their case with a defense attorney.

Source: WTSP, "Sex stings aren't targeting whom you think," Noah Pransky, Aug. 10, 2014

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