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Using Backpage and Craiglist to Catch Alleged Predators

computer-crimes_180x120-150x118If you think going on backpage.com or craigslist.com to pick up prostitutes is safe or fun, think again. Many men, and, to a lesser extent women, have gone onto websites like backpage.com and craigslist.com to find a date and have wound up in jail. Sheriff’s Offices through Florida patrol and use fake posts in the leading websites to nail unsuspecting, would-be paying men and women for sex with the ladies and guys of the night. There is also a bigger problem lurking in the “big two” websites: Unscrupulous law enforcement officers, who will start up a chat with the customer looking for sex, and turn the conversation of a person who would otherwise never consider sex with a child into a conversation about child pornography or meeting up with an underage person for sex.

This common phenomenon of Law Enforcement Officers first posing as “call girls” or “gigolos” and then turning the conversation into sex with underage children is allowing for the apprehension and imprisonment of people who would generally never commit such acts against children.  The criminal penalties that one faces for  traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sexual activity, use of computer services to solicit unlawful sexual activity with a minor, and attempted lewd or lascivious battery, are sentences of 10, 5, and 5 years imprisonment, respectively. These sentences will and likely run back to back or consecutive meaning that one can expect to spend 20 years in prison for communicating online with a person who states at some point they are under 18 years old, then going to meet that person for sex and having the intent to commit sexual acts with the person.  Defending these cases are difficult because of many reasons.

First, the public dislike for those who have been arrested for crimes against children is hard to cleanse. The taint is so imbedded in the mindset of prospective jurors that getting a fair trial through an impartial jury is difficult, if not impossible. Lawyers who have trial experience and vast experience in representing sex crimes involving children will have a playbook of questions for prospective jurors to answer during the Voir Dire processes. The Voir Dire process is the first of many steps to get a fair trial in these child sex cases. Experience counts. One last thing to also consider is that the lawyer you are hiring is the lawyer that will walk into court with you through the process.  Now a days, many lawyers advertise on the internet and when you hire them they do not handle your case but in fact have “coverage” attorneys who just show at court in place of the lawyer you hired, when it is your turn for court appearances. This process of hiring a lawyer over the internet and using “other” lawyers in their place, when it is you turn for court, is no more than conveyor belt justice. Yes, you are just being transported down the line into the “guilty plea” manufacturing of prison time.

Second, most lawyers do not understand the principles of law when it comes to the specific crimes of (i) traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sexual activity, (ii) use of computer services to solicit unlawful sexual activity with a minor,  (iii) attempted lewd or lascivious battery and (iv) procuring a prostitute under the age of 18 years of age. The act portion of the crime or the Actus Rues is relatively easy to prove for the prosecution in a court of law.

Third, the State or Prosecutor general shows that the solicitor, the defendant, drove an automobile or took some form of transportation from one location to where the “alleged” child was staying for the “meeting.” This is easy for to the prosecution to show with the use of cell phone tower records, text messages, e-mails, taxi cab receipts, GPS monitoring systems on most Automobiles and direct testimony of the accused.

Fourth, the State or Prosecutor must also prove that a computer service was used to solicit in unlawful sexual activity with a minor. The use of a computer can be shown by following the IP address of the internet service of the computer to the end user. The email address of the sender can also be used to verify who is sending emails to the purported minor. The emails, text messages and direct testimony of the purported minor, who more often than not is an undercover detective, will be introduced to show the computer user was soliciting, luring, or tempting the minor into sexual activity and since sex with a child is per se unlawful the strict liability of “unlawful” is easily meet. There is no defense in Florida as to mistake of age! The person soliciting the minor believes that the minor is in fact a minor meaning a child or someone under the age of 18 years old or not yet emancipated.

The final area of concern for the Government or Prosecutor is to prove that the defendant seduced, solicited, lured or attempted to do so to engage in illegal act of unlawful sexual contact.  This can be shown by the defendant bring or promising to “pay” the minor, bringing the “minor” gifts, promising “housing” or food to the minor, promising “illegal drugs or alcohol” to the minor and the list goes on.

As an experienced criminal trial lawyer within the area of sex crimes, Attorney Andrew D. Stine of Florida has deveoloped many strategies to fight the State’s Case in crimes against children. If you or a loved one has been arrested in a Craiglist.com or Backpage.com sting, contact the experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Andrew D. Stine for your free consultation.

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