Some of our recent posts have focused on the use of sting operations, which are a common law-enforcement tool used to catch would-be offenders. Most people are familiar with drug and prostitution stings, in which an undercover officer poses as a drug dealer or prostitute. Suspects are arrested after they attempt to buy drugs or sex.
Sting operations are also a very common practice when it comes to certain internet sex crimes. Officers may pose as a minor in a chat room or on a personal services website as a way to catch individuals who seek to solicit minors for sex.
While sting operations are usually lawful, there are times in which suspects would not have committed the crime or sought to commit the crime if they had not been enticed to do so by undercover police or agents. These scenarios are classified as entrapment.
The entrapment defense is generally only usable in situations when the defendant was encouraged or induced into a crime by an agent of the federal or state government (such as the FBI or a local law enforcement agency). Even then, the defendant still has to successfully prove one of two entrapment scenarios.
The first scenario that a defendant could claim is that he would not have committed the crime if the government agent had not enticed him into it through undue persuasion or fraud. The second possible scenario, which is similar, is that the encouragement or enticement was so strong that even people not inclined to commit such a crime in the first place might nonetheless commit it.
It is not always easy to use the entrapment defense, but it can be done successfully. Moreover, evidence obtained from text messages, emails, social media posts, pictures and webcam videos will all be used and interpreted slightly differently by authorities. For these and many other reasons, it is in your best interests to work with an experienced attorney who has a thorough understanding of internet sex crimes and entrapment defense in the digital age.