The Problem with Online Sex Crime Sting Operations
The police will do anything to catch a suspect. They will even create fake situations online to engage people who may not have committed a sex crime without the opportunity created by the cops.
An online sex crime sting involves the police taking advantage of innocent individuals who have not yet engaged in criminal activity. In many cases, this entrapment is the catalyst of illegal activity.
What Is an Online Sex Sting Operation?
During an online sex sting operation, the police create an opportunity for a person to commit a sex crime. When they do, the police arrest them, and the prosecution files charges against them.
While sting operations have been frequent for decades, they have become even more accessible with internet use. In the past, the police would have to identify a target person or area and set up an undercover cop in a geographic area.
These sting operations often required significant investigation of crime in an area and familiarity with the community. In many cases, the police would have an informant clue them in on a situation that might go down, and the police would strategically place themselves in a position to catch a particular person.
Today, the police use the internet to cast a wide net across the United States to capture people they may not even suspect. They often create situations where people engage in criminal activity that those people would not have acted without the prompting of the police.
How Do Police Conduct a Sting Operation?
An online sex sting operation often involves an undercover police officer pretending to be a young person or another individual who is soliciting illegal sex.
The Officer Attracts the Potential Offender
The police officer may post content on social media or within chat rooms to lure an offender into the situation. Once the potential offender engages in conversation with the individual, the police begin recording the interaction.
The Police May Use Illegal Tactics to Catch Offenders
Police officers may or may not reveal that they are underage in initial conversations. They may also send child pornography to catch a suspect. The police take many steps that would be considered illegal in an attempt to catch a potential offender.
Law Enforcement Arrest the Alleged Offender at a Meeting
The undercover police officer may offer illegal sexual interaction and agree to meet with the potential offender. When the person arrives at the meeting location, they will encounter police officers who arrest them for attempting to commit a sex crime.
Are Police Allowed to Conduct Sting Operations?
Pennsylvania’s Wire Tap Act (Title 18 Pa. C.S. §5701 et seq) makes it legal for the police to entrap potential offenders who seek out and travel to have sexual relationships with minors.
Thus, PA police are allowed to pretend to be minors and engage in typically illegal activity in an attempt to catch a sex crime suspect.
What Charges and Penalties Could You Face?
You may face multiple charges if you are caught engaging in illegal sex crimes. Those charges may all be based on one action or conversation you have with an undercover cop. There is no requirement that you have continuous interactions with the police or meet or have sex with the individual.
Potential Charges You Could Face
Some charges you may face for internet sex crimes include:
- Downloading or possessing child pornography
- Sexting with a minor
- Online solicitation of a minor for sex
- Online prostitution and solicitation
- Luring a child
- Statutory rape
- Corruption of minors
All these crimes are felony offenses, resulting in significant prison time and the potential for expensive fines.
You Could Face Severe Penalties
A first-degree felony is the most severe type of felony criminal charge in Pennsylvania. You will face between 10 and 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. A second-degree felony will result in 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. A third-degree felony will result in between 3.5 and 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Sex Offender Registration
Additionally, for most of these crimes, you will be listed on a sex offender list that is publicly available. Once you are released from prison, you may be limited on where you can live and work. Many of the rights you take for granted will be affected.
When Is a Sex Sting Operation Entrapment?
Entrapment occurs when the police create a situation that leads to a crime that would not have happened without the opportunity created by the cops. The suspect would never have committed the crime if the police had not set them up.
How Does an Attorney Prove Entrapment?
The police may argue that the individual would have engaged in the illegal activity regardless. However, this is not true in many situations.
A successful argument that the entrapment violated the defendant’s rights requires proof that without the influence of the police, the defendant would not have been part of the crime.
Call Us If You Were Involved in an Online Sex Crime Sting
Allegations of a sex crime are severe. You should never try to clear your name by explaining the situation to the police.
They will use everything you say against you. Instead, if you believe you were involved in an online sex crime sting, you should immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer who can help protect your rights.
Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 or contact us online to schedule a case consultation.