Entrapment Defense and Internet Crimes

Recently named as one of the top ten emerging legal issues in February, 2016, Internet crimes and the affirmative defense of entrapment, has become one of the most hotly contested legal contests in the 21st century.  As violent crime and crimes against persons and property are dropping all over the Nation, internet crimes have seen a dramatic spike in both arrests and convictions in almost every State and Federal Court system. The most common of these internet crimes involve adults being caught in police “sting” operations, where undercover police officers pretend to be someone they are not, usually an underage boy or girl, to engage in sexual conversation or the exchange or proposed exchange of sexually explicit photographs of children under the age of eighteen. These crimes are very serious in nature, and in the event of conviction, may label an individual a sexual offender or sexual predator for the rest of their lives.

Police Troll Chat Rooms

The police will troll chat rooms and other public or semi-public forums looking for individuals seeking to meet or talk with others of similar interests. Sometimes those individuals are looking for illegal materials or to engage in sexually explicit discussions with minors, or those pretending to me minors. Other times, these conversations lead to a person traveling some distance to meet an alleged minor at a “trap” house, which then results in their arrest for felony charges.

Pretending to Be Someone Else

A common example of this is a middle-aged male police officer  “pretends” they are a 20 something woman looking for sexual conversation, who then while engaging in the conversation “admits” they are really a boy or girl of say 16 or seventeen. In essence, this is a double lie; a person pretending to be one person, only to then pretend to be someone else. Then there is the triple lie; a woman police officer pretends to be a man, pretending to be gay, who then pretends to be underage. Confused yet? You should be. These officers are monitored by superiors and other agents and have no interest in any real intimate connection with any party on the other end of the internet connection, even though that person has no idea what is going on the other end of the computer.

However, these police internet “sting” operations are not limited to sexual activity alone. Often times the police will use agents or confidential informants to offer to sell something of great value at a much reduced price, or buy something for a vastly inflated one, with promises that the transactions are completely legal, when they are anything but.

Internet Crime Entrapment Defenses in Florida

An affirmative defense to these crimes involving police or other third party agents working for or at the behest of the police is entrapment. Chapter 777 Section 201 of the Florida Statutes states what entrapment means, but in laymen terms; terms you need to explain to a jury if you are charged with this offense, it means inducing or encouraging someone to commit a crime they might otherwise not commit. This defense can come in many forms; promises of legality, confusing and contradictory communications, or sometimes, outright threats. Law enforcement walks a fine line between entrapment and criminal investigations, and it pays to explore this defense when accused of any crime where the police are part of transaction.

Bottom line:  Entrapment defenses need to be examined in all Internet crime arrests.