Florida Sex Sting Cases
Over the years, law enforcement and the State Attorneys have altered their tactics in Florida Internet Sex Sting Cases. The old tactics focused on Craigslist and Back Page.
Craigslist Casual Encounters and Back Page may be gone, but that hasn’t stopped law enforcement from operating Florida Sex Sting cases. Make no mistake, Florida law enforcement run highly complex Sex Sting Operations. They have become professionals at luring, seducing, and enticing over the internet.
As I mentioned, gone are the days of Craigslist. Now law enforcement focuses on different apps in order to run their sting operations. No matter what app or service they use, Florida Sex stings continue to run much like the television show from a few years back.
Florida Sex Stings are Akin to a Military Operation
No matter what platform, law enforcement always beings with an operational plan. Routinely, Florida sex stings are conducted by multiple law enforcement agencies working together. It is not uncommon for Sarasota to work with Manatee, Hillsborough, Venice, or even Polk Counties.
In fact, I have handled cases where law enforcement used active duty military personnel in their operation. I drafted a Motion to Dismiss based on Posse Commitatus and the case was ultimately dismissed!
Results Matter: I have successfully prosecuted and defended these cases through jury trial. And I have won case dismissals for my criminal defense clients!
And speaking of the military, I have defended numerous soldiers and airman in these cases. Both against civilian law enforcement and the military police. Not one of my military clients spent a day in prison or registered as sex offenders!
The next step, and the interaction with the public, starts with the ad.
Law enforcement will place ads that seem innocent at first. Here are a few actual examples from cases I handled:
- “bored, and looking for a good time”;
- “Hey…this town is so boring”,
- “What’s a girl to do”,
- “Home alone for the day”.
Law enforcement have wised up. Their ads never start off with sexually suggestive images or language. They will not include sexually suggestive images or language. Many mistakes early on led to lost cases and dismissals for these exact reasons. It was much easier to prove entrapment when law enforcement started off with sexual explicit pictures and posts.
Officers are now trained to let the defendant direct the conversation to sex or sexually explicit topics. This is referred to as the “tone and the pace” of the conversations. It’s one tactic that is successful in defeating an entrapment defense.
Officers will start setting the trap after an unsuspecting person contacts the ad, messages the user, or sends an e-mail.
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).
Law enforcement switches communication platforms to establish additional evidence linked to the suspect.
Usually within just a few texts, the story changes to the person being 14-years old.
Supporting Facts and Details
Law enforcement also layers in other facts that prosecutors use to prove “knowledge” of the crime. For instance, in some sex sting cases I have handled in Florida, law enforcement has used some of the following chat details:
- in high school, or school appropriate functions like swim meets or band practice,
- 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.
Once, Twice, Three times…
Generally, law enforcement will throw in their fictitious age multiple times. And they will repeat the age over the different platforms. They do so in order 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.
Sex and Sexually Explicit Communications
The law enforcement chatter focuses in on the defendant as soon a sexual reference or communication happens.
Law enforcement is again attempt to use details that supports their theory that the defendant knew or should have know it was a minor. For instance, they talk about virginity and sexual experience. Remember, there is not a minor on the other end of the computer. This is a law enforcement professional trained in phycological operations.
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.
Another tactic that has changed in Florida Sex Stings, is that Law enforcement will now attempt to have sexual explicit communications on a different day from the travel. This tactic is used to avoid any chances of double jeopardy when 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.
Where to Travel?
Law enforcement establishes a complete backstory for the chatter during the operation plan. They even have details 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.
Law enforcement will also ask for personal and car descriptions. They may ask the defendant to pick up items such as food, a snack, or a gift of some kind. Law enforcement also requests condoms, and other sexual items. This is all an attempt to further build evidence against the defendant. It shows a lack of mistake.
Law enforcement ensures they have enough evidence and description of the defendant before travel starts, so if the defendant travels, an arrest can occur.
Upon arrival to the target house, the suspect is immediately apprehended.
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 defendant 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 Contact Me 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
Florida Sex Offender Probation 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 Florida sex sting cases.
The difference? I have successfully prosecuted and defended Florida internet sex sting cases in more than a dozen jury trials!
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 cases resolved without prison!
Not only have I have successfully handled sex sting cases throughout Florida, but I have also handled cases 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.