State and federal police officers are using increasingly aggressive tactics to catch and charge alleged sex offenders. In many of these cases, law enforcement officials will set up sting operations over the Internet, convincing the defendant to have an encounter before revealing that they are undercover agents. In a recent case, an Alabama man has been charged and sentenced to 15 years in prison for setting up a meeting with a “victim” who he allegedly believed to be 13-years-old. There was no victim, or 13-year-old girl, only undercover cops looking to pursue serious sex crimes charges.
While sex crimes are serious offenses, aggressive law enforcement officers are often caught up in the business of overcharging and using undercover operations to set up unknowing defendants. Our sex crimes defense attorneys are experienced with complex cases and are committed to protecting the rights of the accused. We understand the severe penalties faced by our clients and the difficult situations posed by a sex crime allegation. In addition to sex offender registry, accused perpetrators will also face the personal and professional consequence.
According to reports, a 48-year-old Alabama man was sentenced for using the Internet to “persuade, induce, and entice” a minor to engage in sexual activity. Furthering the seriousness of the offense was that the accused offender allegedly urged the “victim” to travel across state lines, according to federal officers.
The charges arose after federal law enforcement officers acting as undercover agents, posted an advertisement on Craigslist posing as a 13-year-old girl. The defendant responded to the post and allegedly engaged with the officers through email and telephone calls of a sexual nature with a girl he believed to be only 13-years-old. Reports did not indicate what evidence proved he knew she was 13 or what officers did or did not reveal about the alleged victim’s age. The officers made arrangements to have the defendant meet with the 13-year-old where he was arrested. The defendant has been sentenced to a lifetime term in supervised released in addition to the 15-year sentence.
While law enforcement agencies have a duty to protect young victims, setting up sting operations could raise a number of legal issues. According to the law, police officers must comply with the law and cannot put a defendant in a position of committing a crime he or she would not ordinarily commit. In this case, it is questionable whether the defendant had a history of such activity or if he was enticed into contact with the purported Craigslist ad poster.
As we have mentioned in previous posts, sex crimes can carry serious penalties upon conviction. In addition to the personal and professional stigma, an offender will be forced into lifetime registry as a sex offender. This is all in addition to a jail sentence, fine, and a criminal record upon conviction. If you have been charged with a sex crime or arrested after a sting operation, consult with an advocate about your legal rights.