You may recall that from 2004 through 2007, To Catch A Predator – a “reality cop show” – aired on NBC. Typically, an adult man was lured into meeting a minor for sex. Hidden cameras showed a reporter confronting the potential predator, who was then nabbed by the local police.
Critics argued that the suspects who were arrested on To Catch A Predator could raise an entrapment defense due to the coordination between the show’s producers and law enforcement agencies. But, can a Seattle sex crimes lawyer help?
HOW IS ENTRAPMENT DEFINED?
What is entrapment? When the police conduct cyber sting operations – like the operations shown on To Catch A Predator – can the suspects they arrest offer entrapment as a successful defense?
And what should you do if you are charged with a crime here in the Seattle area – whether or not the charge involves the internet – but you feel like you were entrapped by the police, had no choice, and should not be charged?
Television and the movies have told us that entrapment happens when an undercover officer sells drugs to someone and then arrests that person for possession, or when an undercover officer poses as a prostitute, tells you the price, and then arrests you when you show the money.
HOW COMMON ARE INTERNET “STING” OPERATIONS?
In 2019, internet stings are commonly conducted by law enforcement agencies in every state. In these internet sting or cyber sting operations, law enforcement officers typically pose online as minors who seek a “friendship” with an adult – a friendship that soon becomes sexual in nature.
The police lure their suspect into meeting the purported minor, and the suspect is then arrested and charged for attempting to have sex with a minor. In some cases, the charges also include child pornography and “cyber” sex.
Entrapment depends on the actions and words of the police officers who are conducting the operation. Entrapment occurs only when law enforcement officers directly cause or compel a person to commit a crime that the person would not otherwise have committed.
WHAT IS – AND ISN’T – ENTRAPMENT?
If someone breaks the law entirely through his or her own volition and without any influence of a police officer, no entrapment has occurred – and the defendant in such a case will probably be convicted. Whether entrapment happened in any specific case will hinge on a number of factors.
If you are charged with a crime, you need to understand fully that if entrapment is your defense, you are in fact admitting that you committed the crime you are charged with – but you are saying that it wasn’t your fault.
If you put forth entrapment as your legal defense, you will have to prove that you were entrapped. Entrapment isn’t easily proven, and many jurors are reluctant to believe that an adult was essentially “tricked” into committing a serious crime.
HOW CAN A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAW FIRM HELP?
If you are charged in an internet sting in the state of Washington – or if you are charged with any other crime – and you believe that entrapment occurred, discuss your case as quickly as possible with an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney.
Your defense lawyer will review the facts in the case and recommend the best way to move forward. Because entrapment is usually so difficult to prove, your defense attorney may recommend going instead with another defense strategy.
You may believe that you were tricked by the police, but to use entrapment as a successful defense strategy, you and your attorney will have to prove that entrapment occurred according to its precise legal definition here in the state of Washington.
IF YOU WERE ENTRAPPED, HOW CAN YOU PROVE IT?
In other words, if entrapment is your defense, you and your defense attorney will have to prove:
1. that you were encouraged or induced to commit a crime by the police or by an informant working with the police
2. that the tactics used by the police pushed you into committing a criminal act that you would not otherwise be disposed to commit
Entrapment rarely works as a defense, especially in cybersex cases. Online sting operations must be conducted in a precise manner. The proof needed for a conviction must be meticulously documented. Cops know the rules about entrapment, and they’re careful not to break those rules.
WHAT’S THE BEST STRATEGY?
The best strategy for the average person is simply common sense: Do not discuss sex online with anyone that you don’t know in real life. That strategy will protect you from online entrapment or from any criminal charges connected to cybersex and the internet.
By its nature, undercover police work is deceptive. If you are accused of a crime because of an undercover investigation, you must remember that a charge is not a conviction. The state still must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and in a cybersex case, that may not be easy.
If you are charged with soliciting a minor for sex, with child pornography, or with any other crime involving sex and the internet, take your case to a reliable Seattle criminal defense attorney who has experience – and a record of success – defending clients accused of internet crimes.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH A CYBERSEX CRIME?
If you’re charged with a cybersex crime, your social media accounts and emails will be closely scrutinized. Your computer will be comprehensively searched. Prosecutors in the state of Washington can be quite aggressive in cases that involve sex, minors, and the internet.
If you are charged with any of these crimes, you must take the first step in your own defense. If you are convicted, you could pay a steep fine, be ordered to register as a sex offender, or even be sent to jail or prison. The consequences of a conviction can follow you for the rest of your life.
What you cannot do is procrastinate about contacting a defense attorney. Do it at once. A good defense lawyer may be able to use entrapment as an effective defense or may find a more effective way to defend you. Do not hesitate to exercise your right to a good attorney’s help.