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Investigation reveals questionable tactics during FL ‘sex stings’

A recent investigation suggests that Florida authorities have targeted men who weren’t actively looking for minors during online “sex stings.”

Law enforcement authorities in Florida are prohibited from promoting illegal activity to make people undertake actions that they otherwise might not engage in. Unfortunately, sometimes authorities may still use tactics that approach or constitute entrapment. An ongoing investigation by WTSP News indicates that some of the online stings that are designed to catch people committing sex crimes may employ these questionable techniques.

Aggressive, misleading measures

The investigation found numerous cases in which Florida authorities approached men who weren’t actively looking for young adults or otherwise indicating unlawful intentions. Authorities targeted these men with various tactics, including the following:

  • Posting a personal ad for an adult. If a man expressed interest in one of these ads, the undercover agent would admit to being underage and try to persuade the man to maintain contact.
  • Directly initiating contact with men while posing as adults. In this setup, the agent would eventually confess to being underage and try to convince the man to continue the conversation.
  • Posing as an adult and mentioning the possibility of the man having sex with the agent’s “child.” Some of the men who were approached in this manner were arrested even after stating that they were not interested in having sex with a minor.

In many of these cases, the targeted men eventually faced solicitation charges or similar accusations, even if they stated outright that they did not want to talk to minors or have relations with them. In some of these cases, judges noted that law enforcement authorities overstepped their bounds by introducing the subject of underage sex or pushing targets to consent to the idea.

Serious ramifications

WTSP reports that many of the people arrested in these stings were teenagers or men in their twenties. A shocking 97 percent of those arrested had no history of sex crime accusations or convictions. Even more troublingly, the investigation indicates that a number of these men were not making active efforts to find minors or break the law.

Sadly, the consequences of these arrests can be severe. According to WSTP News, charges against the accused are dropped in some cases, and many other cases end in plea deals, rather than harsh sentences. Still, the social stigma associated with arrest records, sex offender registration or even public TV conferences can have lingering consequences for the accused.

Handling damaging accusations

In October 2014, WTSP News reported that many police agencies had reviewed their policies and started focusing on following established protocols and targeting people who are actively looking for minors. Still, the investigative findings serve as a troubling reminder of the fact that the evidence and methods used to support criminal charges can be questionable.

Anyone who is facing charges that may be based on entrapment or other inappropriate practices should consider contacting a criminal defense attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on challenging the charges or otherwise working toward a more favorable resolution.

Keywords: sex, crime, arrest, charges