Many people have heard of entrapment and may have a vague idea of what it means. It’s important to understand, however, that courts have a very specific definition of the term. Entrapment is a legal defense that refers to situations in which police officers induce a person who would not otherwise commit a crime into committing the crime. Florida’s First District Court of Appeal recently explained how raising the defense works specifically in sex crime cases.
The defendant was charged with several crimes generally related to attempted sex with a minor in November 2013. The charges stemmed from email conversations that he had with an undercover police officer posing as the parent of a 12-year-old girl. He responded to a Craigslist post in which the officer said she was “looking for just the right mature male to help with a family problem.” The undercover officer told the defendant she wanted a man to “be with” her daughter for religious purposes. He asked for a photo of the girl, whom he was told was 12 years old.
In a series of mails, text messages, and phone calls that followed, he made clear that his understanding was that he would have sex with the girl, according to the court. He also described the sexual acts he would perform and arranged a meeting at a gas station outside Tallahassee. He was arrested when he arrived at the meeting spot. He claimed at trial that he had no intention of actually having sex with the girl but instead wanted to help her. He explained that he had been sexually abused as a child. He was convicted at the close of trial.
The defendant argued on appeal that the undercover cop entrapped him by provoking him to commit the crime. The First District disagreed. To prove subjective entrapment, the court explained that he had to show that he was induced to commit the crime by the officer and that he wasn’t predisposed to commit the crime anyway. If he was able to do that, the burden would then shift to the prosecutors to rebut that evidence, and the matter goes to the judge to decide.
The court said he wasn’t entrapped in part because the officer didn’t specifically target him. The ad was posted in an adult dating section of Craigslist, and the officer was the first to mention that her “daughter” needed to lose her virginity for religious reasons. But the court found that the defendant “seems to be confusing inducement with invitation.” The undercover cop’s invitation to have sex with her minor “daughter” wasn’t enough alone to establish entrapment.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. St. Petersburg sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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