“To Catch a Predator?”
Entrapment in “Traveling to Meet a Minor” Cases
We have all seen the TV shows and heard the news reports of people being arrested in sting operations designed the catch adults using the internet to meet minors for sex. What we don’t see is what happened before that person arrived at the residence. Often times it was law enforcement that lured, enticed, or tricked a person into committing these offenses. When the law enforcement uses outrageous means to create a crime with the purposes of then arresting an otherwise law abiding citizen or indices a person not predisposed to commit a crime into committing an offense they are guilty of “entrapment”, and the case may be dismissed.
Florida Courts recognize two forms of entrapment. The first form of entrapment called “Objective Entrapment” focuses on the conduct of law enforcement and bars prosecution when the government’s conduct offends the decency and sense of justice that it amounts to a violation of the Defendant’s Due Process Rights afforded under Florida Constitution. Therefore in the presence of egregious law enforcement conduct when a Court determines as a matter of law, that law enforcement violated a Defendant’s Due Process rights, dismissal of the charge is warranted. Where government supplies all the instrumentalities of the crime, controls all of its aspects, and teaches the defendant how to commit the crime for purposes of later arresting him, there would be no crime at all but for the governments’ involvement. Ultimately no legitimately objective of government is accomplished by prosecuting a crime that is orchestrated or manufactured by the government; as such dismissal in these situations is warranted.
The second form of entrapment is Subjective Entrapment.
This for of Entrapment exists when the Governments’ quest for convictions leads to the apprehension of otherwise law-abiding-citizens, who if left to their own devices would likely have never violated the law. Florida has codified the defense of “Subjective Entrapment” in subsection (1) of Fla. Stat. § 771.201 as follows:
A law enforcement officer, a person engaged in cooperation with a law enforcement officer, or a person acting as an agent of a law enforcement officer perpetrates an entrapment if, for the purpose of obtaining evidence of the commission of a crime, he or she induces or encourages and, as a direct result, causes another person to engage in conduct constituting such crime by employing methods of persuasion or inducement which create a substantial risk that such crime will be committed by a person other than one who is ready to commit it.
A defendant may raise the defense of subjective entrapment for consideration by the jury as the, or submit the issue to the Court to make a determination as a matter of law that the defendant was entrapped. To establish subjective entrapment three questions must be answered: (1) whether the Government Agent induced the Defendant to commit the crime (2) whether the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime (3) whether the entrapment defense should be evaluated by the jury.
Inducement is defined as “any government conduct creating a substantial risk that an otherwise law-abiding citizen would commit an offense, including persuasion, fraudulent representations, threats, coercive tactics, harassment, and promises of reward or pleas bases on need, sympathy or friendship. Inducement refers to government conduct that persuades a person to turn from the righteous path to an iniquitous one. Inducement cannot be found by prompting or creating an opportunity; it involves some semblance of coercive tactics.
Predisposition is defined as “whether the accused was awaiting any propitious opportunity or was ready and willing, without persuasion, to commit the offense.” A defendant is seen to lack predisposition to commit a crime when the defendant is not known for deviant behavior and/or has no prior criminal history related to the charged offense. Thus in order to establish predisposition the state must prove that the defendant disposition to commit the alleged offense existed prior to Government contact with the defendant. When the State produces no evidence of the past deviant behavior of the defendant or criminal activity on the part of the defendant the charge should be dismissed as a matter of law.
In sum, law enforcement cannot originate a criminal design, implant on an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit the crime and then induce the commission of that crime so that the Government may prosecute. Often times in these to catch a predator cases law enforcement uses tactics to lure ordinary people to travel to a location by lying or deceiving the individual, seeking a person out when that person gives no indication they are looking for children and has no predisposition to commit the crime, by never stating or verifying their alleged age, by sending photos of attractive adults to the person as opposed to a child, or by instigating sexual conversation and enticing these individuals to travel to the officers location by manipulating their emotions or making repeated pleas.
If you have been arrested, or accused of “Traveling to Meet a Minor”, or “Using the Computer to Solicit a Minor” it is important that you seek the services of an experienced attorney to make sure that you were not the victim of Government Entrapment. Attorney Anthony Rickman has been successful in getting cases dismissed on entrapment grounds specifically in these “To Catch a Predator” type cases. Contact us today for a free consultation.