Sex Sting Cases in Florida
Over the years, law enforcement and the State Attorneys have altered their tactics in Internet Sex Sting Cases in Florida. Craigslist use to be law enforcement’s ‘go-to’ for operations. Craigslist Casual Encounters and dating site may be gone, but that hasn’t stopped law enforcement from continuing to operate their stings.
Now law enforcement focuses on different apps in order to run their sting operations. In either event, the Sex Sting Operations in Florida play out much like they did on that television show from a few years back. No matter what platform, the case generally starts with an operational plan. A lot of the times these stings are conducted by multiple agencies working together. In fact, in one case I handled, law enforcement actually brought in active duty military personnel to handle certain aspects of the operation. I drafted a Motion to Dismiss based on Posse Commitatus and the case was ultimately dismissed. The next step, and the interaction with the public, starts with the ad.
Law enforcement will place ads that seem innocent at first ((“bored, and looking for a good time”; “Hey…this town is so boring”, “What’s a girl to do”, “Home alone for the day”) those are all from cases I handled)). The ads never start off with sexually suggestive images or language. They will not include sexually suggestive images or language. As they have lost cases due to entrapment, law enforcement officers are now trained to let the defendant direct the conversation to sex or sexually explicit topics. They consider this to be the “tone and the pace” of the conversations and it has been a successful tactic to avoid entrapment based defenses.
After an unsuspecting person contacts the ad, law enforcement starts setting the trap. Rarely will law enforcement continue with e-mail (in the case of web-based style operations). They usually ask to switch to a text/message program like google chat, instant message, or text messages on a cell phone. Why? so they have more evidence that the individual they are talking to is the same person (e.g. the e-mail, text messages, and phone number all go back to the same person).
Usually within just a few texts, the story changes to the person being 14 years old. Law enforcement also uses details such as being in high school, single parent gone for the day, no camera phone, and other details that would make a person believe that the chatter is a minor. All of these details can and do generally harm the defendant’s case. Generally, law enforcement will throw in the age multiple times to avoid any potential defense that the defendant may have missed the age.
Then law enforcement waits for any hint of sexual talk. If the conversation turns sexual, arguably, the first crimes of Illegal Use and Soliciting have been committed.
The next step in the Sting Operation is getting the suspect to actually travel, which is the more serious of the felony charges.
After e-mails, calls, texts sometimes over hours or days, law enforcement then begins to discuss meeting. Now, generally, law enforcement tries to separate the texting and travel between two days. They do this in order to avoid the double jeopardy defense that may be available if the State charges both Solicitation and Traveling on the same day. That doesn’t mean that they will. The faster someone is willing to travel, generally, the better for law enforcement.
Law enforcement goes through the trouble of setting up back stories such as getting food or going to a public place. In actuality, law enforcement are hoping to get the suspect to come to the target house. Although, the savvy law enforcement chatters will provide an “out” for would-be targets. Meaning, they will say things like “you don’t seem interested” or “may be we are not looking for the same thing”. This is all an attempt to further diffuse any entrapment arguments.
Upon arrival to the target house, the suspect is immediately apprehended. Usually at the door by heavily armed swat types. Detectives then begin video interrogations of the suspect. This is done to confirm the details of the chats, interrogating for admissions, coercing the suspect to sign waivers of their Constitutional Rights and allowing for warrantless search of their cell phone.
This is only the beginning. Now the criminal case against the suspect starts.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, invoke your rights! Sign no documents, consent to no searches, do not unlock your cell phone or provide passwords to accounts. Answer no questions. Ask for a lawyer and then call us immediately.
Sex Sting Cases in Florida generally result in a variety of charges. A few of the most common charges that are filed are:
- Traveling to Meet a Minor
- Attempted Lewd & Lascivious Acts
- Soliciting a Child for Unlawful Sex Through a Computer
- Illegal Use of a Two-Way Communications Device
Law enforcement and the prosecution usually file those charges together because they generally result in a defendant scoring prison. In fact, the Traveling to Meet a Minor charge is a Second Degree Felony that carries a maximum of 15 years in prison! Needless to say, the state has a lot of leverage in these cases.
Sex Offender Probation is Much Easier to Violate
Sex Offender Probation in Florida is much easier to violate than regular probation. There are many more terms and requirements and costs associated with Sex Offender Probation in Florida. Some of the mandatory terms can include GPS monitoring, curfew, no living or staying in designated areas (such as close to a school), no attending events near children, no volunteering, no interaction with anyone under 18 (including family members) and no internet to name some of the most common.
Any violation of Sex Offender Probation usually results in additional jail or prison sentences for each violation. The state usually has 15-30 years of jurisdiction. The State Attorneys take these cases very seriously.
Why Should You Hire an Experienced Trial Lawyer?
Hiring a lawyer that has actual experience in handling Internet Sex Sting Cases in Florida may be the difference between prison and a potential life sentence of sexual offender or sexual predator registration. Just because a lawyer says they are a former prosecutor or defense lawyer, doesn’t mean that they have successfully handled sex sting cases. The difference? I have personally tried internet sex sting cases both as a prosecutor and a defense lawyer. As a defense attorney, I have drafted and argued motions that have resulted in actual dismissals of all charges against my clients, or reduced the charges to non-sex offenses (no sexual offender/predator registration), many without prison!
I have successfully handled sex sting cases throughout Florida, in Georgia, and Alabama. If you have been accused of this type of crime, call me immediately to discuss your case. Let my experience handling these cases from both sides of the aisle assist you in preparing your best defense.