What You Should Know about Online Entrapment

David Lindsey, Attorney at Law

Ask the average person on the street about entrapment and he or she will likely reply it is illegal and something law enforcement is not able to do, even to a known criminal. Unfortunately, the question of what is and is not entrapment is rarely considered until a person becomes the target of the practice.

One of the most common instances in which the question of entrapment arises is in potential child predator cases. Often, men (and sometimes women) targeted by law enforcement are not child predators at all, but are enticed into behaving as such by law enforcement in their effort to identify real criminals.

Law enforcement officials go online posing as children and participate in conversations with people who might be lonely and seeking attention, or simply interested in a dating adventure or love connection. One of the most common sites used to ensnare the vulnerable is Craigslist’s personals section because it is free of charge. In order to participate in this section of Craigslist users must confirm they are at least 18 years old, which means others assume everyone with whom they interact is of legal age of consent.

So is law enforcement crossing the line by propositioning people on Craigslist and attempting to lure them into committing a crime, or should anyone meeting someone from the internet request ID to confirm age?

Every Case is Different

Whether or not you will be accused of being a child predator and found guilty of a crime depends on the specific details of your case. The prosecution will argue you believed the person with whom you were interacting to be a minor – or at least had warning the person was under 18 – and that you intended to commit some kind of sexual act with him or her. Your defense will need to prove you not only believed the person to be of age, but that you had no prior intention of engaging in sex acts with a minor. This can be a tough challenge and there have been instances in which defendants were found guilty, even if it seemed there was strong evidence in his or her favor.

So what should you do if you think you are being targeted as a child predator and lured into taking action that could get you into trouble? Obviously, it’s best to avoid these situations, but for many looking to make a romantic connection and take a chance on someone they “click” with online, this can be tough. If you do choose to meet someone you’ve met online, schedule your first meeting in a public place, if possible. You can always move to a private location, should you determine the meeting is on the “up and up” and you feel safe.

If anything seems suspicious about someone you meet online, err on the side of caution. There is a fine line between being adventurous and breaking the law, and law enforcement will do all it can to convince a jury your intention was the latter.

What Can You Do If You are the Victim of a Trap?

And if you find yourself in a situation where your intentions were misunderstood or you believe you were misled by law enforcement, you need to contact an attorney immediately. In this day and age, with internet dating now the norm, it is possible for someone with the best intentions to find themselves in legal trouble and the only way out of the situation is with the representation of an experienced attorney.

If you would like to speak to someone about your circumstances, contact David Lindsey to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.

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