One thing many people wonder about is “how are pedophiles caught?” And there are actually many, many ways this can happen. Some people are charged with child molestation after their victims come forward, others are caught trading child porn and others are caught in chat room sting operations. Child predator chat room sting operations can be illegal if not conducted properly, which means it is possible to successfully fight the charges the help of a top child molestation lawyer.
Did the Sting Operation Use Entrapment?
Many people who have been arrested after a chat room sting operation or similar police procedure believe they have fallen victim to entrapment. Unfortunately, that’s due to a common misunderstanding about what actually constitutes entrapment. Just because police make committing a crime seem alluring to someone or even present the opportunity for someone to break the law doesn’t mean it’s entrapment.
Entrapment involves tricking someone into committing a crime they would normally never do through the use of fraud, pressure, harassment, flattery or threats. So if a police officer in a child predator sting operation acts like a young teenager who wants to have sex with an older person and someone replies in the hopes that they can have sex with a juvenile, no entrapment occurred.
Some officers in some jurisdictions have been accused of entrapment as part of a chat room sting operation when they have originally stated their age to be over 18 and then change it after talking to someone for a substantial amount of time. Some agents even chatted for a while with the target of their sting online before introducing the idea of having sex with their son or daughter, and then continued to talk with the target and push the idea of having sex with the child after the target clearly indicated they were not interested. It is worth noting that while these types of behaviors have taken place during child predator sting operations, they are still relatively rare. If you aren’t sure if you fell victim to entrapment, your attorney can look at the circumstances and determine if entrapment may have occurred.
In San Diego County, law enforcement typically use an internet advertisement or respond to someone else’s solicitation. Soon after initiating contact, the undercover officer posing as a minor claims he or she is 14 or younger. Eventually they send photos, exchange suggestive comments and arrange for a meeting. When the suspect arrives at the meeting they are arrested for felony charges.
Illegal Searches and Seizures
If you’re arrested for trying to meet a minor for sex, you can be charged with soliciting a minor for sex. While it can be difficult to completely fight this charge since entrapment is rarely an effective defense, you might be able to fight charges that arise from search and seizure of your personal property once you have been arrested after the chat room sting operation. If you have any sexual photos of minors (including on your phone), you could also face child pornography charges. If there are records of your sexual interactions with minors, you could also be charged with child molestation.
It’s important to recognize that simply using a private browser cannot protect your data. So if you have used your computer or phone to look at sexual photos of minors or chat with them about sexual encounters, this information could be used against you. Fortunately, search and seizure law is fairly complex and it is common for police to violate the Forth Amendment rights of people they investigate. If this happens, your chatroom charges attorneys can help you fight these related charges.
Potential Penalties for Chat Room Sting Operations
If you arranged to meet with a minor for a lewd or lascivious purpose, you will likely be charged by a misdemeanor. However if you arrived at the meeting place, you will face felony charges punishable by up to four years in prison. If you believed the minor to be 14 or if you are at least 25 and believed the minor to be 15, you can also be charged with attempted child molestation. Finally, if you attempted to solicit the minor as a prostitute, you can also face an extra $25,000 in fines. In addition to jail or prison, the defendant in these cases will also face lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Fighting these charges can be difficult but it is possible with the help of a skilled defense attorney. You need to speak with chat room charges lawyers right away though as anything you say to police can be used against you and in attempting to defend yourself, you may hurt your case. If you have been accused of any crime related to a chat room sting operation, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image by Clare Black