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“To Catch a Predator”: Good Police Work or Entrapment?

“To Catch a Predator” has received an incredible amount of attention over the last ten years due largely to our culture’s desire to witness scandal and to catch bad guys who are about to commit a crime. Local law enforcement in South Florida has taken the premise of “To Catch a Predator” to a new, more local level by facilitating internet sex stings throughout Florida; approximately 1,200 men have been lured and arrested for their intentions to initiate sex with minors. What has come to the limelight in a recent report has been the extent and complexity of many of these internet sex stings, which have left Florida detectives with an increasingly number of convicted sex offenders, but whose overzealous tactics have baited and entrapped others.

Are Unethical Police Tactics Being Promoted and Used?

The tactics and strategies by Florida detectives have thrown a wide net over men who are looking for adult female company. Detectives have begun to post more vague personal ads on traditional dating websites from “adult females” looking for male company. Once the men (who on average were under 25 years old and did not have past criminal history) initiated contact through the personal ad, the law enforcement would change their story, implying that their age was 14 or 15 years old. Some of the tactics found that the men would not find out about the age until well after there were communications passing between the men and whom they believed were adult females. Once the men were notified of the age, the men were then convinced into continuing conversations with the “minor girls.” Those men who state that they do not want to continue talking to the “minor” are then arrested anyway for the conversation.

Currently at the center of the entrapment issue is the lack of information regarding the specifics of the tactics used by the detectives. It is unknown exactly the type of language that is used in the ads posted and how the “minor” responds when the men, who have just found out about the minor’s age, attempt to cut ties with the “minor.” This information would be able to support a finding that men accused of being sexual predators were actually entrapped and lured into a child sex scheme in which they were not interested in participating.

Entrapment Law in Florida

In Florida, entrapment can be a defense for a defendant accused of a crime that was a part of a scheme devised by law enforcement. Entrapment can be used as an affirmative defense by a defendant who must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the crime was a type that he or she would not have committed otherwise without the police’s inducement.

To prove entrapment, the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:

  • He or she committed actions that constitute a crime that he or she was encouraged or induced to commit by law enforcement;
  • He or she committed the crime as a direct result of the police’s inducement or encouragement;
  • The person that induced or encouraged the defendant to commit the crime was a law enforcement agent;
  • The law enforcement agent induced or encouraged the defendant in a way that it was substantially certain that the defendant would likely commit the crime; and
  • The defendant would not ordinarily commit this type of crime.

Criminal Defense Attorneys To Protect Clients From Entrapment

Entrapment is a legally viable defense for a defendant who believes that a law enforcement officer induced or encouraged him or her to perform an act that constitutes a crime that he or she would not normally perform. If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime and believe that you were entrapped by a law enforcement agent, please contact Kevin J. Kulik, an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney, who will be able to educate you on the ins and outs of entrapment law and help determine if this a viable defense for your case.

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